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A guide for business databases, books, web resources, and more. Students taking any business-related courses or certifications should start here!

Understanding Company Research

Doing company research provides information on corporate entities and organizations directly from the source and from the industry or market that they do business within. You will need to know whether your company is a public or private company to successfully do research. 

Private companies are companies that are owned by private investors. They do not need to meet the Securities and Exchange Commission filing requirements for public companies. Examples of private companies include Staples, Cargill, and Trader Joe's.

Public companies are companies that have issue securities through an initial public offering or IPO. The company stock is traded on at least one stock exchange or in the over-the-counter market. Examples of public companies include Netflix, Chevron, and Nike.

Company research may also include:

  • Company profiles with basic contact information
  • Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or  North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code
  • Stock exchange abbreviations and official names
  • Competitors and industry standing
  • Annual sales and revenue statistics
  • Expected growth and trends
  • Products and services
  • Company size
  • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analyses

Adapted from LMU Research Strategies for Company Information Tutorial and ELAC Business Guide.

Company Profiles

Company Websites

Companies, especially public companies, use their websites to provide information on their activities, important changes, and relevant company data. 

When evaluating company websites for research consider the following:

Using ARM to Evaluate company websites Audience and Authorship (A) Representations and Reality (R) Messages and Meaning (M)
What to think about...
  • What is the company's background?
  • Why did the company make this information available?
  • Who is the audience of the website? Consumers? Stockholders?
  • Who might use this information? 
  • When was this information last updated?
  • Is the information presented facts, opinions, or advertising? How do you know?
  • What is the information about?
  • What ideas, values, or points of view are being presented?
  • Is there obvious bias or prejudices being presented?
  • How does this information add to your knowledge on this company?
EXAMPLE: Coca-Cola Website This website wants to attract and keep shareholders. They give company statements, financial data, and news so people can see their success and  want to invest in Coca-Cola. They update the website often. News and stock information is updated daily. Company reports and results are updated by quarter directly from the company. Most of the website is about the story, vision, and financials for Coca-Cola. The company wants to look sustainable, like they care about the environment and have values people would trust. They also want to look socially responsible and aware of what is happening in society.

Adapted from LMU Research Strategies for Company Information Tutorial.

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