When thinking about research, we often think about searching for discrete, published items – books, journal articles, videos. But some information is quite different, and some is fluid and ever-changing. One area where this is the case is corporate research, whether examining a specific company or looking into a whole sector of the national or global economy. As businesses change and adapt and merge and re-strategize, the information about them fluctuates constantly, and researchers of any kind – investors, academics, etc. – need tools which keep up with the changes.
For an individual company, stock prices, corporate strategies, and financials are likely to be major points of interest. Mergent Online or Hoover’s Company Records are solid databases for this – search by the name of your company or its stock ticker symbol (such as JNJ for Johnson & Johnson). In Mergent, you will get back a substantial report on that company, including financial information, filing data (including bankruptcy filings), information about competitors, history, and more. Each of these categories (the green tabs at the top) include sub-categories, as well. You can download these as-is with the ‘download’ button, or choose ‘Report Builder’ and make a custom report to download with whatever information is important to you. In Hoover’s, when you search your company by name or ticker symbol, you will get back everything as one downloadable PDF file. This is easier to use, but you will miss out on some of the customizability offered by Mergent.
Another advantage of Mergent is the inclusion of financial ratios. You might use a ratio to measure liquidity or profitability or debt management. You might use one to compare two companies (or a company to an industry average), or a company’s solvency today to its position twenty years ago. Mergent can calculate them for you – just click on the ‘Company Financials’ tab and then the ‘Ratios’ sub-tab below it. Data can be viewed by year or by quarter. Ratios can also be included in any custom reports you make with the Report Builder.
One thing to note – publicly traded companies have far more data available about them, but these databases do include some information on private ones, too.
If you’re interested in an entire market or industry, MarketLine Advantage is the database to use. While it also offers company-level information (click on ‘browse by company’ to start), looking at whole economic markets or regions is its real strength. It is constantly updated with national and international market news, case studies, and reports of all kinds. The easiest way to start is to click on ‘Browse by Sector’, or under the Analysis menu, choose ‘Industry Analysis – Industry Profiles’. You’ll note that most market sectors have dozens or even hundreds of new reports added each week, so you’ll be getting a lot of very recent data.
Choose the sector you want from the icons on the screen (or the ‘Sector’ filter on the left). You can choose a whole sector, or a more narrow sub-category by clicking the arrow next to the box. Choose which one or ones you would like (if this layout seems labyrinthine to you, there is a search box above, as well) and click ‘show results’. You can add other limits on the left too, such as limiting to a particular country or region of the world, or by date. Your result list will contain a number of detailed industry reports that fit your criteria, downloadable as a PDF or Word document.
For up-to-date news and general research, Business Source Complete, ABI/INFORM Complete, and Regional Business News are great choices. Business Source Complete also contains SWOT analyses of companies – a kind of comprehensive self-evaluation a company makes of itself, looking at how best to maximize its advantages and prepare for any coming crisis or disadvantage it may have. ‘SWOT’ stands for ‘strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats’.