Business FAQ

Find out how to locate basic business information from online and print resources

Company Directories  | Balance Sheet & Income Statement  |
Company History | Industry Overview | NAICS | Economic Indicators | Articles | Industry Ratios | Key Competitors Historical Stock Price

Company Directories

The library subscribes to a number of national, regional and subject directories that provide basic information about a company; i.e., name of company, address, NAICS industry code, product line description, leading officers, and sales for the previous year. The global business directory, LexisNexis Corporate Affiliations, and regional business directory, the D&B Regional Business Directory: New England Area, are shelved on the Ready Reference 3 shelf next to the Research & Instruction desk. For a subscription directory via the Internet, try LexisNexis Academic (select the Companies tab and select Company Profiles ), or Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies . Free Internet directories include ThomasNet (for manufacturers, distributers, and service providers) and the Kompass Business to Business directory for international coverage. More sources of company directory information are available on the Research Guide for Company Information .

Balance Sheet & Income Statement

Public companies typically file 3 years of financial information in their corporate annual reports. Mergent Online provides pdf copies of annual reports on approximately 15,000 U.S. companies as well as up to 15 years of financial information. Another source for financial information is the 10K report companies file annually with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission at the EDGAR web site. Lastly, Disclosure U.S. Public Companies , located on LexisNexis Academic Universe (click on the Search by Content Type tab and select Company Profiles ) provides three years of standardized financial data, facilitating financial comparisons of companies. The data located at the Mergent Online and Disclosure U.S. Public Companies sites can be downloaded into Excel.

Note: Private companies are not required by law to disclose publicly their financial statements. If you are researching a private company, contact a reference librarian for help in locating available financial data. 

Company History

To locate an extensive company history, see the multi-volume work: International Directory of Company Histories in print and online . To find the latest entry for a selected company in the print edition, look up your company in the index of the last volume. The Hoover's Academic database also contains brief company histories as does the Mergent WebReports database. For a chronological listing of important company dates, search for the company in Mergent Online and at the company record, select the company details tab and then history .  Remember, the library catalog also contains books on individual companies that contain corporate histories.  To look for such a book, type the company name as a keyword, and run your search.  

Industry Overview

IBISWorld contains profiles of 700 industries, including industry life cycle, performance, outlook, key statistics and more. Select the Industry Market Research tab to get started. First Research Industry Profiles also reports on hundreds of industries and provides timely information on all aspects of the industry. The Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys  (found under the Industries tab on the Standard & Poor's NetAdvantage database), is another excellent database to begin research on an industry. The Industry Surveys provide extensive overviews and outlooks for 50 major industries. ValueLine also provides one page industry reports with industry data. For more sources of industry information, see the Research Guide for Industry Information.


The NAICS code, or North American Industry Classification System, is a numerical classification system created by our government to facilitate the business counts for the economic census collected every 5 years. Each NAICS number describes an industry or product. The NAICS code is a valuable tool for locating competing companies within the same industry, since many print and online business directories will have an index arranged by the NAICS code listing companies within a particular industry. To locate the NAICS code for a particular industry, look up the industry at the NAICS web page or go to the index in the print  North American Industry Classification System: United States, 2007 .

Economic Indicators

Economic indicators are reported monthly or quarterly (depending on the particular indicator) by various U.S. government bureaus and agencies. An excellent web source for economic data is The U.S. Economy at a Glance published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Economic Indicators page from the U.S. Census Bureau is another excellent source of national data. Standard and Poor's NetAdvantage also contains Trends & Projections , a newsletter containing economic outlooks and data. To get a better understanding of the significance of a particular indicator and how and why it is collected, see: Guide to Economic Indicators by Norman Framkin. For more sources of economic data and information, see the Research Guide for Economics .


Proquest Business Databases and Business Source Complete provide indexing to articles on companies, industries, and business topics. Users can search by company name, industry description or NAICS code. LexisNexis Academic  database contains a News library providing full-text articles from national and international business journals and newspapers.  Use the Journals List to find out which library database carries the full text of a particular journal.

Industry Ratios

To locate benchmark industry ratios, look up the industry by its NAICS code in one of the following publications: RMA Annual Statement Studies or the Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios. The library holds historical issues of these annual publications. 

Key Competitors

A company's key competitors can be found using the Market Share Reporter, the Business Rankings Annual, or the Mergent Industry Review. Special issues of industry trade journals also publish rankings of companies and/or articles mentioning the performance of industry competitors.  To locate industry trade journals and link to the database carrying the journal, search the library's journals list by keyword.

Historical Stock Price

There are a number of websites providing historical stock data, including the daily high, low and close for a particular stock for the past year(s).

Yahoo Finance or MSN Moneycentral are two sites that provide easy access to historical stock data. Make sure to check your data against more than one source.


Colleen Anderson, Head of Reference Colleen Anderson
Business & Economics Librarian
401-232-6299 or IM a Librarian

Business Blog and Subject Specialities:
Accounting - Business - Company Information - Economics - Finance - Industry Information -
Small Business - Tax