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Company and Competitor Information: Getting Started



In this guide you'll find some of our most-used resources for researching companies. Can't find what you're looking for?  Contact the Business Librarian for tips on how to locate information on companies.

Start with the Type of Company

The first step in any kind of Company Research is to determine company ownership.*  Why?  Because this will usually determine how much and what type of information you'll be able to find on your company.


Public Company

Public companies, like Wal-Mart, Ford and Coca-Cola, are those that sell stock to investors.  They are required to submit information to the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), so they typically have the most information available to researchers.  Public companies are required to provide detailed financial statements and annual reports to stakeholders.  You'll also find a lot of information from news organizations, investment analysts, market research firms, and publishing companies.


Private Company

Private companies, which do not sell stock to investors, are not required to provide information about their companies to anyone. As a result, they can be more difficult to research. If you find financial information, it is usually an estimate.  Estimates are sometimes generated based on the type of industry and number of employees.  The estimate could be very wrong!  If the private company has competitors that are public, you have a better chance of finding some information on the company.  Sometimes, all you will find are contact info and what they do.

 Use the databases below to help determine whether a company is public or private:

Subject Guide

Barbara Bishop's picture
Barbara Bishop
RBD Library
231 Mell Street
Auburn University, AL 36849-5606
(334) 844-1690
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