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Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons

Company, Industry, Country Research

Information for Life

Company Research Overview

As you research, keep these categories in mind. Each set of sources has different things to tell you about your chosen company.

  • Newspapers and news sites: Latest news and current trends

  • Company rankings and lists: Identifying companies of interest

  • Directories, initial filings, corporate websites: Basic information about companies, such as physical addresses, key personnel, company history, organizational structure

  • Annual reports, SEC filings, analyst reports: In-depth analysis and detailed information on company activities

  • Industry overviews and government data: The broader business, industry, and economic context

Types of Companies:

Public Company (publicly-held, listed): sell shares of the company (stocks) to the general public, and are required to submit financial information and annual reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Public companies are therefore easier to research as a general rule of thumb.
Private Company (privately-held, unlisted): do not sell publicly traded stocks and as a result, are not required to release as much information to the government or the general public.  They are therefore more challenging to research.
Subsidiary: A company that operates under the control of a larger parent company is a subsidiary. The parent company may be a private or public company. The parent company may not disclose financial performance of individual subsidiaries. You may need to read the management discussion in SEC filings such as 10-K, study the information provided on the subsidiary’s and parent company’s websites, or find news articles in order to find information about financial performance and strategy
Non-profit: Organisations can fall into a number of categories including associations and not-for-profit unlisted public companies. For information on a non-profit organisation, search the above databases, the organisation's website and news sources.

Off-campus library database access

When you access a library database off-campus (such as IBISWorld, Mergent, etc.), you will be prompted to enter a username and password. These tell our system that you are a member of the SSU community.
  • The user name and password are the same as those used to access Navigator, Canvas, email, etc.

Company Research

These resources provide profiles, reports and statistics on private and public companies. Use these to research a company's finances, executives, business strategy and placement within a market.

Library Databases

Web Resources

Company web sites can provide a wealth of information, particularly for public companies. Look for press releases, investor information including presentations and events and filings, annual reports or corporate social responsibility or "community" reports. Use information from the company carefully and watch for bias or an overly-optimistic interpretation of factual data.

Private Companies

If your project's company is a smaller, local company it may not be in some of the larger business databases. Here are strategies you can use to find information:

  • Search for a company website.
  • Search databases that contain some private company information. Suggested databases and resources:


  • Consider using a similar public company as a proxy. By researching a company that is similar to your own you may be able find analysis that explain key issues that could be affecting your project's company including opportunities and threats, consumer trends, and issues affecting the supply chain.
  • Look for news articles in local newspapers and periodicals. Three databases that may help you find articles mentioning your company are:

Library Databases

Publicly traded companies are required by government regulators to provide filings and Annual reports. These will contain information on but not limited to finances, market segmentation, subsidiaries, strategies and performance. You can generally find annual reports on a companies website often located in a investor relations section. 

Library Databases

Web Resources

Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis.

If there isn't a SWOT analysis, you can do your own SWOT analysis by collecting information from multiple sources, such as company profiles, industry & market information, journal articles and news. If you are researching a public company, take a look at its Annual Reports, especially the section "Risk Factors." 

Here are some other tips on doing your own SWOT analysis:

Explore the company website and consider the following:

  • What kind of service/product do they provide?
  • What kind of customer needs are they meeting? Are they meeting these needs better than their competitors, at a better price?
  • What's their customer value proposition?

Interview the companyif possible. State that you are a student researching on the company for academic work, and that you will agree to sign any non-disclosure agreement. Call and ask them nicely. You might be surprised! * Most of the "internal information" (e.g., HR practices) of small private firms is highly unlikely to be available in secondary sources; in this case, talking with the company is the only way.

Read reviews, if available. Although customer reviews can be biased and unreliable, consistently positive or negative reviews should be taken into account. Consumers often find weaknesses that the company may not be aware of. However, be realistic -- you can't be all things to all people. Always keep your target market in mind.

Take a look at the competitors and consider

  • What kind of service/product do the competitors provide?
  • What are your company's competitive advantages (e.g., unique product/service, location, size, customer service, price, etc..)? How does your company differentiate itself from others (i.e., what's its niche)?

Library Databases

Library Databases

Web Resources

A collection of business directories and products.

Library Databases

Web Resources