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Research Guide: MBA6560-Business Research  for Market   Strategy

Scope:  This guide is a selected list of resources that will be useful for locating information for a business plan.  These resources include print materials available in the Stewart Library, and electronic resources, some of which may be available only to WSU students, faculty, and staff.  Each section will provide helpful strategies or guidelines for searching.


Table of Contents


Before You Begin...

Before doing any research, decide what it is you need to find out, and develop clear, concise, and meaningful questions.  For example, instead of saying "I need information to help me decide whether or not RC Willey should expand into the Phoenix area", you might break this down into the following specific questions:
  • Who are RC Willey's primary competitors in the Phoenix area?  
    • How big are the competitors' stores (number of employees)?  
    • What are their sales per store?  
    • What is their market share?
  • What are basic demographics for the Phoenix area? 
    • population
    • income levels
    • age distribution
    • ethnic breakdown, etc.
  • What are construction costs for this area?
  • What are land costs for this area?
  • What is the cost of advertising in the local media for this area?
    • newspaper
    • television
    • radio
    • billboards, etc.

As you start to locate information, you may come up with other questions.  Make sure there is a reason for finding all of the information you are searching; make sure it is relevant.  You might start by writing out a list of questions and stating reasons why you need this information.  If you can't think of a reason why you need the information, you probably don't need it:

  • I need to know what construction costs and land costs are for the Phoenix area because I will be building two new stores.
  • I need to know what the income levels are for the Phoenix area, because I want my stores to be located near middle-income areas.


It is a good idea to check SEVERAL publications for competitor lists.  Some print sources may be a bit dated; and some online sources may not be as reliable.  For example, you might try checking the Salt Lake City Yellow Pages and the Web site to obtain a list of  R C Willey competitors in the Salt Lake area.

  • For a list of major competitors for a particular company in a particular area (ie. a list of furniture stores in Ogden), try  Choose a particular category (ie. furniture dealers--retail) and limit to a specific city or state to obtain a list of competitors operating in that area.
  • Another good place to look for competitors in a particular area is to check the yellow pages for that city.  Or, try Ward's business directory of U.S. private and public companies Reference Table 6 HG4057.A575 2001.  Excellent source for private companies.
  • Lexis-Nexis
    One of the best places to start identifying potential competitors is via Hoover's in the Lexis database.  From the main menu, select 'Business', then select 'Company Financial' from the next menu.  Select 'Hoovers' from the source menu and type in the company name in the search box. 

  • Telephone Directories on the Web
    Provides links to many U.S. business yellow pages on the Web.

  • State or regional newspapers may have articles on your competitors.  To access newspapers from a particular state or region of the country, use the Lexis-Nexis database.  Select 'News' from the main menu, then 'U.S. News' from the next menu.  Select either a state or a region to search newspapers from that area.


Demographic sources will provide a variety of information about a specific population, including income distribution, age level, ethnic groups, etc.  The level of coverage (state, county, city, etc.) will vary depending on the source you use.  The following sources may be useful to you in completing this particular assignment. 

  • Sourcebook of ZIP Code Demographics   Reference Table 5B  HA203.S66
    Includes statistical data on more than 150 characteristics such as age, race, income, households.
  • American Fact Finder                                                                    
    Lots of Census data, including facts about population and housing, business and industry, community information, and maps.  This is a great starting point, as it goes down to the city and county level.
  • County and City Data Book
    Official population and housing data from the 2000 Census plus business and other data for all U.S. counties, cities with 25,000 or more inhabitants, and places of 2,500 or more inhabitants.
  • U.S. Census Bureau
    Provides links to both national and international statistics.  A good place to start, particularly for regional demographic and economic data. For U.S. geographic area data choose 'Geography' from the opening screen, then 'Map Stats'.  For all other topics choose Subjects A to Z which includes links to other government statistics sites.  Their International Data Base provides online socioeconomic data for many countries in such categories as population, vital statistics, literacy, labor force, employment, and income.
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States
    Text of the Statistical Abstract of the US available in PDF format.  A good starting point for general statistics on almost any subject, this resource provides a digest of statistics from many sources. Check the sources listed at the end of the statistical tables for updated or more detailed data. 
  • State and Metropolitan Area Data Book
    From the U.S. Bureau of the Census.   A collection of statistics on social and economic conditions in the United States at the State and metropolitan area levels.
  • CensusScope
    Provides census data for states, counties, and metropolitan areas.  Use the tabs at the top of the page to select charts, maps, or rankings.  Data includes information such as multiracial and population growth, population by race, age structure, and family structure. 



If you need specific information about a local area (ie. land or construction costs for a particular location) that is not available via standard statistical or demographic sources or via local online sources (ie. chambers of commerce or city Web sites), try contacting the local chamber of commerce via telephone.

  • Online Chambers of Commerce
    Chambers of commerce are great places to gather specific data about a particular location, and many of them have Web sites.  This directory of chambers includes U.S. cities and states, Canadian, and National chambers, and links to other online chamber directories.

For other statistical & demographic sources see research guides for Government Business & Economics Information (for federal, state, local, Utah, and international statistical information); and Marketing & Advertising (for market & demographic statistics, market segment information, and consumer research sources).

Media & Advertising Rates

These sources provide information about individual magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations, cable and satellite systems, and web sites. They may provide information about circulation numbers, broadcast power and range, network affiliation, target audiences, physical formats, and rates charged for advertising.
  • Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media  Reference Table 6A  PN4867. G3
    This source provides detailed information on newspapers, magazines, journals, radio stations, television stations, and cable systems. Includes advertising rates and circulation statistics, and population and top industries for each city.  International coverage.
  • Dataplace 
    From Advertising Age.  Provides lists of top magazines and circulation rankings.
  • Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook  Reference Table 6A  TK1.B86367 
    Covers television, cable, satellite broadcasting, and radio industries in the US and Canada. Includes market sizes for television in metro areas and target audiences for reatio stations.  Some advertising rates.  Includes twelve sections: A: industry overview plus a directory of group owners; B: directory of television stations by state and city, and TV market statistics; C: cable rankings by household and penetration percentage; D: directory of radio stations, call letter lists, radio formats by state, and radio market statistics; E: satellites and other services; F: programming services; G: technical services; H: brokers and professional services; I: associations, events, education, and awards; J: law, regulation, and government agencies.


Trade Publications & Associations

Trade publications and associations can be valuable and detailed sources of information about a particular industry or your competitors.  There are several strategies you can use to search for information in these sources:

  1. Identify specific titles of trade publications or associations by looking in one of the sources listed above.  If they include a Web address, try browsing their sites.  Some will require you to subscribe, and others will provide information free of charge.  One example of a furniture retail association is the National Home Furnishings Association.  This and other furniture trade magazines and associations are listed in the Directory of Business Resources above.    
  2. For trade magazines that do not provide Web addresses, or for those that do not offer information for free, check the list of Full Text Electronic Journals and Newspapers to see if WSU offers full text access to that particular title.  For example, If you are looking for the magazine called Home Furnishings, click on 'H' and scroll down until you see the title (if you do not see the title you are looking for, we do not have access to that title online- try searching the online catalog to see if we own it in print).  You will see that Home Furnishings is available from 1995 to 1999 in a database called Masterfile Premier, from 1997-1999 in Lexis, and 1998 editions are available in the Business & Industry database.  Just click on the database name, and do a guided search to search for a specific title.


  • Directory of Business Information Resources   Reference  HF54.52 .U5 D567 2000 Provides lists of associations, newsletters, magazines & journals, trade shows, directories & databases, and Web sites for particular industries.
  • Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources  Reference Z7164.C81E93 
    This encyclopedia is organized by industry/topic. A list of "Periodicals and Newsletters" is provided for all the industries listed. The Encyclopedia also describes the abstracts and indexes, directories, encyclopedias and dictionaries, handbooks and manuals, statistical sources, trade and professional societies, and electronic databases available for each industry.
  • Encyclopedia of Associations  Reference Desk
  • National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States, 1999  Reference HD2425.N37 1999
  • Associations on the Net (Internet Public Library)
    "A collection of over 2000 Internet sites providing information about a wide variety of professional and trade associations, cultural and art organizations, political parties and advocacy groups, labor unions, academic societies, and research institutions. Abstracts summarizing information about the association and its site are provided."
  • Standard & Poor's NetAdvantage
    In the Industry Surveys section, look at "industry references" for a list of important trade journals and professional and trade associations for a particular industry.

You can also find trade magazines in many of the periodical indexes, such as ABI/Inform, Lexis-Nexis, Business Source Premier, Business & Industry, or Business Dateline.  (The last two on this list are reat for local or regional coverage.)


Industry Information

Keep in mind when searching for industry information that different sources will classify industries a little differently; some classify industries into broader areas than others (ie. 2 digit SIC versus 6 digit SIC).  Some use the SIC classification, some use NAICS, and some use both.  It is a good idea to look up your industry classification code first.


  • North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
    Provides common industry definitions for Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This new system is replacing the countries' separate classification systems with one uniform system for classifying industries. In the US, NAICS will replace the Standard Industrial Classification system (SIC). Provides information about new industries and sectors as well as correspondence information between NAICS and SIC.
  • Standard Industrial Classification Code Search
    Allows a search of the 1987 version SIC manual by keyword, access of descriptive information for a specified 4-digit SIC, and examination of the manual structure. The SIC manual may be searched by keyword or by SIC code from this site.
  • Standard industrial classification manual : SIC 2 + 2 Reference Table 6 HF1042.S73 1988
  • North American industry classification system Reference Table 6 PREX2.6/2:IN 27/997/



  • RMA Annual Statement Studies Reference Table 6 HF5681. B2 R58
    Contains composite financial data on manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing, service, and contracting lines of business. Arranged by SIC code, this work makes it possible to compare one company's performance relative to other companies in the same line of business.
  • Industry Norms & Key Business Ratios Reference Table 6 HF5681. R25153
    Includes both public and private US corporations of all sizes.
  • Standard & Poor's Industry SurveysReference Table 6 HC106.6 .S74
    Analysis of current and historical trends on an industry basis. Current edition available online via Standard & Poor's NetAdvantage
  • Value Line Investment Survey Reference Desk
    Provides ratings and reports on industries and major companies. Each industry section covers major issues as well as composite industry statistics.


  • County Business Patterns
    From the U.S. Bureau of the Census.   The number of business establishments are given for each SIC code and within certain employment size ranges for the U.S., states and counties. 
  • Economic Census
    Most of the statistics are arranged by SIC industry codes.   The 1997 Census also uses NAICS.
  • Reuters Business Insight    
    Includes market reports from five industry sectors: consumer goods, energy, finance, healthcare, and e-commerce/technology.  Full-text reports available in PDF or HTML format.

Tips on Searching Databases

  1. RATS: Read All The Screens!  Look at dates, spelling and search syntax carefully to avoid simple mistakes.  A common example:  In the Lexis-Nexis database, the default search searches only articles from the past six months.  If you are searching for an article from 1996, you need to change the date range.  If you are not getting any results you might increase the number of years in your search.  Another common mistake is using the wrong truncation symbols (see number 3 below).  Each database has a different symbol.
  2. When searching for information in databases, always use the 'advanced search' option.  This will give you more options for customizing your search.
  3. Use truncation symbols to broaden your search. For example, the search term market? in the ABI/Inform database will find articles with the word market, markets, marketing, marketers, etc.  Truncation symbols for some of the databases you will probably use for this research are:  
    • Lexis-Nexis !
    • ABI/Inform  ?
    • Business Source Premier  *
    • Business & Industry  *
  4. Use the field search options on the advanced search screen for more specific searches.  Most of these databases will provide a company field for searching for information on a specific company.  Other useful fields might include the SIC code/industry code option (for locating articles on a particular industry) or the geographical field (ABI only) for locating articles that focus on a particular area.  When searching for articles from a particular journal (ie. Harvard Business Review), choose the journal title/publication title field.

Below is an example of an advanced search using truncation and field searching.  This ABI/Inform search is locating articles that focus on the Cleveland area, the company Parker Hannifin, and have the term manufacture, manufacturers, manufacturing, etc. somewhere in the article.  Some databases also provide a date range; this database is searching for articles from all date ranges.


ABI/Inform screen shot

Need Additional Help?

When searching for materials, try a variety of databases- ask a librarian for suggestions based on your topic.  Remember- different databases will have different coverage, and will look a little different.  One good strategy is to try to find one or two GOOD articles- once you've found them, look at the terms they use, and try another search using those terms.  For more detailed information on finding full text articles from business database, see 'finding full text articles online'.


If you STILL can't find exactly what you need, or have questions...

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Updated March 10, 2009 . Please send comments to Ed Hahn
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