Business Tutorial


Sources of Business Information

General Business Magazines | Trade Magazines | Business Web Sites | Business News Services | Business and Trade Associations | U.S. Government Agencies | State and Local Government Agencies

A Research Strategy

Company Location & Status | Company Industry Grouping | Financial Information | Company Operations | Competition & Market Share | Industry Information | Economic Context


This tutorial will survey the kinds of business information generally available at no charge on the Internet. The first section provides an introduction to sources that provide business-related information. Commercial sources, associations and organizations, federal government, and state agencies are among the sources covered. The second section presents a strategy that the business researcher can follow -- from research about a specific company to information about a broad industry and the economic environment in general.

The problem/solution format set forth throughout this tutorial is suggestive of kind of searches that can be done. Keep in mind that there are many other ways to arrive at similar results.

Although the Internet can be a rich source for business information, there is much information not freely available. Premium information such as market research reports, industry ratios, and earnings of private companies are not necessarily available at no charge on the Internet. We will focus here, however, on information that is freely available on the Internet.

Sources of Business Information

General Business Magazines

Most general business magazines (as commonly found on newsstands) have Web sites with current articles accessible online. These are a useful source of news, trends, and industry information. A partial list includes:

Problem: Many more business magazines are available online. How can you find them?
Solution: A power search with a comprehensive search engine can produce the desired results. Try a search like this: +"business magazines" +directory [Click here to try this search]

Trade Magazines

Trade magazines are the kind of reading we would expect to see in the offices of a given company. Virtually every business has its own trade literature. Examples include:

Trade journals contain trends in the industry, industry statistics, company rankings, feature articles about industry leaders, and business-to-business advertising (an often overlooked, but important, aspect of business information gathering).

Problem: You need to find trade magazines on gourmet coffee.
Solution: Try entering a search like this into one of the three recommended search engines: +magazines +"gourmet coffee" [Click to try this search]

Problem: You need to locate trade literature on e-commerce.
Solution: This search produces some excellent results: +"trade magazines" +"e-commerce" [Click to try this search]


Business Web Sites

Business-oriented Web sites are among the richest sources of business information. Many of these contain freely available information. Sometimes these sites also have added value available to subscribers. Below is a small sampling of this kind of Web site:

Problem: You want to find more business Web sites like those above.
Solution 1: To find Web sites that contain similar sites, try searching for lists that include the above sites, as well as others. Try searching like this: +bloomberg +"wall street research net" +"motley fool" [Click here to try this search]
Solution 2 : Use Google Sets. Try the same three sources used in Solution 1 above. [Click here to try this search]
Solution 3 : You might also try to find research guides already created by librarians, researchers, or others. To find other business guides try searching a search engine like this: +"business research" +guide [Click to try this search]

Business News Sources

Business news can be found in newspapers, wire services (such as the Associated Press), fee-based Web sites, and freely available Web sites, such as the following:

Problem: You want to find business news sources freely available on the Web.
Solution: Try this simple search: "business news" [Click to try this search]

Problem: You need to find current news about the business of intermodal transportation.
Solution: Search a comprehensive search engine something like this: +"intermodal transportation" +"news releases" [Click here to try this search]

Problem: You want to find out current news about initial public offerings (IPOs)
Solution: Try this search: +"ipo news" [Click to try this search]

Problem: You want to find out Coca Cola's human resources policies and decisions.
Solution: Try a search like this: +"coca cola" +"human resources" [Click to try this search]

One particular publisher, American City Business Journals publishes business newspapers in over 40 different markets ( . Use this strategy to find other such business journals: "business journals". [Click to try this search]

Business and Trade Associations

Business and trade associations exist to provide networking, pooling of resources, sponsoring of conferences, and often publishing special reports and statistics concerning an industry. Below is just a sampling of available resources:

You can also use your Web searching skills to do a targeted search.

Problem: You would like to locate business or trade associations in Connecticut.
Solution: Try both of these searchers: +"business associations" +connecticut [Click here to try this search]; +"trade associations" +connecticut [Click here to try this search]

Chambers of commerce are among the richest sources of local business statistics and information. Below are several Web sites containing listings of chambers of commerce. None of these lists includes all chambers.

Problem: You want to find the Chamber of Commerce in Waukesha, Wisconsin
Solution: Search like this: +"chamber of commerce" +waukesha [Click here to try this search]

U.S. Government Agencies

Many U.S. government agencies offer publications that are of interest to those in business. These sites are particularly important for their statistics, research reports, and legal materials. Below is a selected list of federal agencies of interest to business research:

Executive Office of the President:

  • United States Trade Representative:
    Coordinates U.S. international trade and direct investment policy, and negotiates all U.S. trade agreements, including all matters within the World Trade Organization (WTO).


Department of Agriculture:

Department of Commerce:

  • Bureau of Industry and Security:
    Export regulations and assistance.
  • Census Bureau:
    One of the most important government sites for business research. Business statistics; 2002 Economic Census; County Business Patterns; Characteristics of Business Owners; ZIP Code Business Patterns
  • Import Administration:
    Notices, protective orders, and regulations concerning import matters.
  • International Trade Administration:
    Information on trade development by country/region and by industry.
  • Market Access and Compliance:
    Helps to obtain market access for American firms and workers and to achieve full compliance by foreign nations with trade agreements they sign with our country
  • Patent and Trademark Office:
    Searchable databases for patents and trademarks can provide ideas for innovation and design.
  • U.S. Commercial Service:
    Helps business with international trade counseling, trade contact services, product service and promotion, customized market research, trade leads, and organization of international trade missions.

Department of Labor:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics:
    Economy at a Glance, Occupational Outlook Handbook, and many other data sets.
  • Employment Standards Administration:
    Enforces and administers laws governing legally-mandated wages and working conditions.

Department of the Treasury:

Independent Establishments:

State and Local Government Agencies

State and local governments usually contain information of great interest to those doing business research. Not only can statutes, ordinances, and regulations often be found, but often these official Web sites provide statistics and assistance for small businesses.

All fifty states have their own Web sites. Each of these sites contains links to state business agencies and programs. To find a state Web site, type the URL as:, where xx is the two letter postal code for the state. For example, the Web site for Florida would be: and the site for Nebraska would be: Notice that many of these "flip" to another site. Yet the trick works nevertheless. In fact, Colorado is one of the sites that "flips". flips to

You can use the power search features of a comprehensive search engine to search for specific information within a state's Web site:

Problem: You want to find tourism information and statistics for Colorado.
Solution: Use a comprehensive search engine to do a targeted search of a specific Web server. In this case, you need to search the Colorado state server: Try searching for the words tourism and statistics within the Colorado state server. [Click here to try this search]. But, because Colorado has two domains, to be thorough, you should do the same search on the site as well. [Click here to try this search].

The Open Directory Project listing of state Web sites leads to regional, county, and municipal Web sites (   Most cities and counties have a Web presence that can provide links to chambers of commerce, local newspapers, and local industry statistics.

A Research Strategy

Determine the Company Location & Status

A most important distinction must be made at first: whether the company you are researching is a public company (sells shares of stock), a private company (does not stock shares). A researcher can expect to find much information on public companies, and probably much less on private companies.

Research on public companies is much more accessible than private companies, since they must file disclosure statements on finances, operations, and key personnel. They are public because they offer publicly traded stocks.

Many commercial company directories list companies, both public and private. On the Internet there are several strategies that can be used to get basic company information.

Yellow Page Directories

The headings in yellow page directories are not those used in traditional business research, but rather the familiar phone book headings. Below is a partial list of Web-based phone book services.

Search Engine Company Directories

Several major search engines also provide directory services, helpful when trying to identify company locations and company Web sites:

Special Services

Some specialized Web sites offer much more than simple directories of companies. Below is a partial list.

  • Hoover's Online:
    This fee-based service has much material that is also freely available. It should be noted that if you are accessing Hoover's Online from the DU campus or DU wireless, you will be able to get to the fee-based information.

Find the Company Industry Grouping

In order to understand a company's business, it is necessary to find the classification(s) which most closely identifies the business.

All business can be classified according to a detailed classification system set out by the United States government. Through 1996 the Standard Industry Classification (SIC) system was used to classify businesses. Beginning in 1997 companies were required to file corporate filings using the new North America Industry Classification System (NAICS). This new classification system is much better able to accommodate new emerging industries such as Web designers and other businesses in the information sector.

Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)

The SIC code system is a hierarchical arrangement. To illustrate, Major Group 54 is Retail: Food Stores; Industry Group 541 stands for Grocery Stores; and the specific SIC code 5411 includes Grocery Stores: convenience stores, food markets, frozen food plans, grocery stores, and supermarkets.

The entire Standard Industrial Classification Manual is available at: It is both searchable and browsable.

The Major Group breakdown is as follows:

Division A Major Groups 01-09 Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing
Division B Major Groups 10-14 Mining
Division C Major Groups 15-17 Construction
Division D Major Groups 20-39 Manufacturing
Division E Major Groups 40-49 Transportation, Communication, Utilities
Division F Major Groups 50-51 Wholesale Trade
Division G Major Groups 52-59 Retail Trade
Division H Major Groups 60-67 Finance, Insurance, Real Estate
Division I Major Groups 70-88 Services
Division J Major Groups 90-99 Public Administration

North American Classification System (NAICS)

The creation of NAICS became necessary because of growth and changes in business and industry. This new system consists of six digits and can accommodate more distinctions. The North American Classification System manual and help is available at: (includes tables to translate from SIC to NAICS and NAICS to SIC).

The sectoral breakdown is as follows:

Sector 11 Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Hunting
Sector 21 Mining
Sector 22 Utilities
Sector 23 Construction
Sector 31-33 Manufacturing
Sector 42 Wholesale Trade
Sector 44-45 Retail Trade
Sector 48-49 Transportation and Warehousing
Sector 51 Information
Sector 52 Finance and Insurance
Sector 53 Real Estate and Rental and Leasing
Sector 54 Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
Sector 55 Management of Companies and Enterprises
Sector 56 Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services
Sector 61 Educational Services
Sector 62 Health Care and Social Assistance
Sector 71 Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
Sector 72 Accommodation and Food Services
Sector 81 Other Services (except Public Administration)
Sector 92 Public Administration


Once the classification number is discovered, much useful research can be found about your company and similar companies.

For instruction purposes, let's assume our company is a hotel. Using the SIC Manual, we discover that the SIC code for hotels is 7011: see The NAICS code is 721110: see Keep in mind that NAICS codes are being gradually implemented over the next several years. Most of the current available data will still be available using SIC codes.

Let's say we want to get data on hotels in a particular ZIP code area. We can use ZIP Code Business Patters (available through the Census Bureau Web site at We can enter our ZIP code and get results by SIC code.

An example of data sets using SIC or NAICS codes includes:

Many library reference books and commercial publications also publish data using SIC or NAICS codes. Especially important are those that provide company directories by these codes.

Discover Company Financial Information

For public companies, financial information is easy to find, since public companies must report their revenues to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Private companies, on the other hand, do not report through these public filings, and their financial information is usually gathered through company intelligence gathering or educated guesses. This information is generally not easily found on the Internet for private companies.

Since public companies are required to file their Annual Reports (10-K reports) to the Securities and Exchange Commission, these are easily available at the EDGAR Archives through the Securities and Exchange Commission site:

Stock Market

The stock market, a major source of company financial performance for public companies, is one of the easiest areas of research to conduct via the Internet. We are all familiar with the major U.S. stock exchanges:

Problem: There are many smaller stock exchanges in the United States and in other cities around the world. How can you locate them?
Solution: To find listings of all exchanges the world over, try a search like this: +"stock exchanges" +argentina +japan +germany +"hong kong" [Click here to try this search in Alta Vista ]. [Same search in Google].

Most of the business Web sites mentioned in the beginning of this tutorial have links to stock price and performance information, as do the sites below:

Corporate Filings (Annual Reports and Other Filings)

Public companies are required by law to file certain reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC provides a helpful listing of the various forms and filings (10-K, 10-Q, etc.) and describe the information they provide:

Company filings provide major sources of information including: ownership, directorship, financial statements, financial performance (including ratios). Public companies are required by law to file with the SEC electronically. EDGAR, the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system, performs automated collection, indexing, and forwarding of SEC filings. To read about the EDGAR database, and to begin to search it, go to:

Apart from the official SEC Web site, some third party Web sites provide annual reports as well:

Gather Research About Company Operations

This area of research is generally the most difficult to do with freely available resources. Company research can include virtually everything you want to know about a business: marketing strategies, personnel policies, management styles, business plans, overseas ventures, company history, patents, and pending lawsuits are but a few examples.

Several Web sites provide helpful information concerning company research:

This area is challenging because it gets into competitive intelligence. With creative searching using principles in this tutorial, information about company operations can occasionally be uncovered.

Problem: You need to see if you can find a business plan from the Coca Cola company concerning expansion into Latin America.
Solution: Try a search like this: +"coca cola" +"business plan" +"latin america" [Click here to try this search]

Problem: You want to see what you can discover about Walmart's management style.
Solution: Try this search in a power search engine: +"management style" +wal-mart [Click here to try this search]

Investigate Competition & Market Share

In a competitive environment, businesses are continually concerned about their position within the market and how they rank in market share.

Market Share

Market share, the percent of the market a given product or company has, is often tracked in trade publications or Web sites.

Problem: You want to find the market share for shampoos.
Solution: Try a power search like this: +shampoo +"market share" [Click here to try this search]

Problem: You need to find the market share for retailers such as K-Mart and Walmart.
Solution: Here is an example search: +"market share" +"k-mart" +wal-mart [Click here to try this search]


Ranking within an industry is an important way of determining position of a company within a market. Major public companies are ranked by major business magazines:

Other ranking services also are available:

To find more lists, try searching AltaVista, Fast, or Northern Light: "business lists" or "company lists". Suppose you wanted a list of hotel company rankings. You could search: +rankings +hotels [Click to try this search]

Examine Industry Information

Moving from company research to the industry within which the company operates, it is necessary to gather news and other information about the specific industry. Think in terms of the SIC and NAICS classifications mentioned earlier. Many of the Web resources mentioned above in the Business News section of this tutorial include this information.

Industry News & Trends

Industry trends can be gathered from a variety of sources. The Census Bureau's Current Industrial Reports ( provides this information.  Several Web services cover trends and news:

Industry Ratios

Selected ratios for public companies can be found in the financial section of the annual reports. Ratios show the performance of a company. By comparing the ratios of a company with ratios of other companies of similar size in the same industry sector, we can judge a company's performance relative to others. An explanation of how to calculate ratios in doing financial statement analysis can be found at: Unfortunately, this kind of analysis is generally not freely available on the Internet. BizStats claims to have some free ratios:

Typically, ratio analysis is done in libraries with books such as:

  • Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios (by Leo Troy)
  • Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios. (published by Bun & Bradstreet)
  • RMA Annual Statement Studies (published by Robert Morris Associates)

Place in the Economic Context

Since all business is conducted in the larger context of the national and international economic conditions, it is necessary to study economic context of business. The following Web sites and publications will provide a basic start for doing this:

Last Updated 7/17/2010 -
© Christopher C.  Brown  -