Below are the steps for effective company research. Each step is covered in more depth by the other pages in this guide. Click a heading to navigate to that section.
Determine whether the company is public or privately held as well as if it is a parent or subsidiary. Gather additional background information about the company, including its history, the line of business it is in, and key personnel. Profiles can identify major competitors and company strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, or other important information. Library databases are valuable sources of information here, as is the company's own website. Be sure to closely examine all content originating from a company's website, however, because the potential for bias is present.
Public companies are required by law to provide reports on their financial health. These reports are accessible a number of ways, including the Security and Exchange Commission's website. They are also available through many of the library databases which provide company information, and often on the company's website. Current and recent stock performance is widely available online, but more in-depth coverage, as well as historical data, is more easily found using library databases. Financial performance data for privately-held companies is often much more difficult to locate, and you may have to rely on competitor information as well as newspaper and other external reporting to estimate a private company's market performance.
Articles published in business journals, magazines, and newspapers will often provide insights into a company's operations, strategy, performance, and competition. While many popular newspapers and magazines are publicly available and these can provide worthwhile current information, you will often need to consult the library's subscription databases to access scholarly and trade publications.
You will also want to gain an understanding of the industry in which the company operates. Industry profiles provide context for understanding the detailed information you've gathered in the previous steps. Looking for information about a company's competitors, suppliers, and any external opportunities, weaknesses, and risks will help you understand the overall operation of the company.