How to do Research on Business

Business & Economics Research Guide 1How to do research on business & economics? In the vast field of business and economics, finding timely background information and data for you research paper is vitally important. Your quest for information may include researching a major Fortune 500 company, basic concepts and strategies of business or economics, or current business or economic trends. No matter what your purpose is, a wealth of business sources is available in a variety of formats on all aspects of business, economics, finance, and related disciplines.

Among the potential list of sources for research papers are printed references and directories, periodical indexes with citations and abstracts of published articles, full-text scholarly and popular journals, and electronic sources, including online databases and Web sites. Each is useful for finding pertinent facts and histories, profiles of key business figures, historical and economic data, terms and definitions, details about concepts and practices, emerging markets and developing countries, and information on practically any for-profit or nonprofit corporation or other business throughout the world. You can also find comparative market share information and market data on products and brands, demographic information, research about economic conditions and market conditions, corporate and investment news, and annual reports of major publicly held companies.

Based on the recommendations of librarians, researchers, and specialists in their fields, the following lists highlight some of the best sources of information for writing a research paper on business and economics today.

Selected Subject Headings

Listed below is a sample of a few broad Library of Congress subject headings—made up of one word or more and representing concepts under which all library holdings are categorized—which you can try when searching online library catalogs to locate books, audio and video recordings, and other valuable references on business and economics. When searching for materials on your topic, subject heading searching may be more productive than simple keyword searching. However, keyword searching when using the right search method (Boolean, etc.) and combination of words can be equally effective in fi nding materials more closely related to your topic.

Suggested Research Topics in Business and Economics

  • Business Cycles
  • Capitalism
  • Economic Policy
  • Economics—Developing Countries
  • Economics—History
  • Economics—Mathematical
  • Income
  • Land Use
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • Supply and Demand
  • Underdeveloped Areas—Economics

Selected Keyword Search Strategies and Guides

Most online library indexes and abstracts and full-text article databases offer basic and advanced “keyword” searching of virtually every subject. In this case, combine keyword terms that best define your thesis question or topic using the Boolean search method (employing “and” or “or”) to find research most suitable to your topic.

If your topic is recession and economics, for example, enter “recession” and “economics” with “and” on the same line to locate sources directly compatible with the primary focus of your paper. To find research on more specific aspects of your topic, from your list of keywords that you developed alternate one new keyword at a time with “and” between them (for example, “recessions and economic growth,” “recession and indicators” “recession and personal income,” “recession and stock market,” etc.).

For additional help with keyword searching, navigation or user guides for online indexes and databases by many leading providers, including Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, EBSCO, H.W. Wilson, OCLC, Ovid Technologies, ProQuest, and Thomson Gale, are posted with direct links on library Web sites to guides providing specific instruction to using whichever database you want to search. They provide additional guidance on how to customize and maximize your search, including advanced searching techniques and grouping of words and phrases using the Boolean search method—of your topic, of bibliographic records, and of full-text articles, and other documents related to your subject. Many libraries, under the “Help” sections of their Web sites, post their own tutorials on subject and keyword searching, which you can also consult. For further assistance in this area, check with your librarian.

Selected Source and Subject Guides

Business & Economics Research Guide 2As part of your preliminary research to find appropriate resources for your topic, information source and research guides are available at most public and academic libraries and are keyword searchable through your library’s online catalog (to search and locate guides, enter your “subject” followed by these keywords one search at a time: “information sources,” “reference sources,” and “research guide.” Printed guides available for this subject area include

Business Information: How to Find It, How to Use It, 3rd ed., by Michael R. Lavin, 560 pages (Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 2004)

Business Information Sources: A Beginner’s Guide, 3rd ed., by Lorna M. Daniels, 725 pages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993)

Strauss’ Handbook of Business Information: A Guide for Librarians, Students, and Researchers, 2nd ed., by Rita W. Moss, 480 pages (Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 2003)

In addition to these sources of research, most college and university libraries offer online subject guides arranged by subject on the library’s Web page; others also list searchable course-related “LibGuides” by subject. (Offcampus access to subscription databases is usually restricted unless you are a registered student; therefore, you can access them only as an on-campus visitor.) Each guide lists more recommended published and Web sources—including books and references; journal, newspaper, and magazines indexes; full-text article databases; Web sites; and even research tutorials—that you can access to expand your research on more specific issues and relevant to your subject.

Selected Books and References


The Fitzroy Dearborn Encyclopedia of Banking and Finance, 10th ed., edited by Charles J. Woelfel, 1,220 pages (London: Routledge, 2002)

This revised edition includes 4,200 entries, including 2,000 new additions, providing complete definitions of thousands of basic banking, business, and financial terms, and other relevant information such as analyses of recent trends, historical background, and statistical data, as well as laws and regulations.

Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources, 27th ed., 1,234 pages (Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 2009)

Alphabetically arranged by subject, this useful resource lists primary sources for business information—electronic, print, and live sources—under industries and business concepts and practice. This encyclopedia covers a wealth of resources within each subject, including databases, directories, indexes, newsletters, and research centers. E-mail addresses and Web page addresses are provided with most entries.

International Encyclopedia of the Stock Market, edited by Michael Sheimo, 2 vols. (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1998)

The first authoritative work of its kind, this encyclopedia provides relevant information and definitions on more than 2,000 terms covering the history and practices of the international stock market. Entries pertain to industrialized and developing countries, individuals, banks, brokerage and leveraged buyout firms, events, and slang terms.

Handbooks, Directories, and Yearbooks

Directory of Corporate Affiliations, 6 vols. (Skokie, Ill.: National Register Publishing, 1973–2001; New Providence, N.J.: LexisNexis, 2002– )

Billing itself as “the most trusted guide to corporate linkage in the U.S. and worldwide,” this comprehensive source, in print for more than 30 years, provides extensive details on more than 180,000 parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, and divisions. The eight-volume set makes it easy to research public and private firms in the United States, companies around the globe and their links to U.S. companies, and manufacturers and parent companies of products or services. With this directory, you also can research a given industry, individual executives of a specific company, the net worth and sales data of businesses, key contact information and personnel, and much more. In 2002, LexisNexis acquired the series, also offering it on CD-ROM or online by subscription under the name LexisNexis Corporate Affiliations.

Dun & Bradstreet Million Dollar Directory (New York: Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., 1959-)

This annual directory provides a wealth of information about America’s leading corporations, including the names, addresses, and phone numbers, annual sales volume, total number of employees, names, titles, and functions of officers and directors, sticker symbol and stock exchange information, and more.

The Europa World Yearbook, 50th ed. (London: Europa Publications, 2009) An excellent source for social, political, and economic information, this international yearbook covers more than 250 countries and territories and more than 1,650 international organizations. Individual surveys offer historical, governmental, and economic data on countries and territories. Contents are also accessible online under Europa World Plus through the publisher’s Web site ( by subscription.

Financial Yellow Book, 900 pages (New York: Leadership Directories, 2009)

Up-to-date semiannual editions, first published in 1992, that contains information on more than 580 leading public and private U.S. financial institutions, including brokerage firms, consumer finance companies, mortgage companies, private investment firms, and securities underwriters and venture capital firms.

Hoover’s Handbook of American Business 2010, 20th ed., edited by Sally Alt, et al. 967 pages (Austin, Tex.: Hoover’s Business Press, 2009)

This comprehensive volume contains in-depth coverage of 750 of the largest and most influential U.S. companies, from corporate giants to more than 50 of the largest privately owned companies. This valuable reference covers personalities, events, and strategies that have made each company tops in its field. In addition, it includes 60 pages of business lists, including the Fortune 500 list of the largest U.S. corporations, Software Magazine’s top 50 software companies and Advertising Age’s top 50 media companies.

Hoover’s Handbook of Private Companies 2009, 14th ed., 589 pages (Austin, Tex.: Hoover Business Press, 2008)

Hoover’s Handbook of Private Companies presents information about 900 nonpublic U.S. enterprises, including large industrial and service corporations, hospitals and health care organizations, charitable and membership organizations, mutual and cooperative organizations, joint ventures, government-owned corporations, and major university systems. Entries range from 200 in-depth profiles to 700 shorter entries. The book also lists companies ranked by sales and by number of employees, plus the fastest growing private companies.

Hoover’s Handbook of World Business 2009, 16th ed., edited by Margaret C. Lynch, 407 pages (Austin, Tex.: Hoover’s, 2009)

Hoover’s Handbook of World Business profiles hundreds of the most influential public, private, and state-owned companies headquartered in Canada, Europe, and Japan and in emerging countries, such as Brazil, China, and Taiwan. This handy reference offers detailed profiles of 300 companies from these regions, and includes lists of the top global companies from Fortune and other publications.

International Directory of Company Histories, 114 vols. (Detroit, Mich.: St. James Press/Gale Group, 2010)

Unrivaled in its breadth of coverage, this 114-volume work, first published in 1988, brings together detailed histories of the world’s 4,550 largest and most influential companies. Each entry provides a complete overview, from three to five pages, of the subject, based on popular magazines, academic periodicals, books, annual reports, and the archives of the companies themselves. Discussed in detail are the company founders; major milestones, including expansions/losses and labor/management actions; principal competitors; statistics; names of key players; and more. Volumes 1 through 6 cover major industries arranged alphabetically; Volumes 7 through 114 cover companies by name, listed alphabetically within each volume. A cumulative index is included in each volume. Full text of the directory is also available as an e-book.

Moody’s Industrial Manual (New York: Moody’s Investor Service, Inc., 1954–2000; New York: Mergent, 2001– )

Annually updated manual offering full financial reports for every industrial corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange, and regional exchanges. Entries also feature company histories, background, and information regarding mergers and acquisitions, subsidiaries, principal plants and properties. Published as Moody’s Industrial Manual by Moody’s Investor Service from 1954 to 2000, the title was changed to the Mergent Industrial Manual beginning in 2001.

Nelson’s Directory of Investment Research, 32nd ed., 2 vols. (Port Chester, N.Y.: Nelson Research, 2007)

This annual two-volume directory profiles more than 19,000 publicly traded companies around the world. Also includes information on investment research firms and investment analysts.

Standard & Poor’s Standard Corporation Descriptions (New York: Standard & Poor’s Corp., 1941–)

Published annually since 1941 with quarterly updates, this authoritative reference offered comprehensive financial histories of 9,000 public companies. Also available in electronic form through the subscription database, Standard & Poor’s Net Advantage (1998–).

Standard & Poor’s Register of Corporations, Directors, and Executives, United States and Canada, 3 vols. (New York: Standard & Poor’s Corp., 1973– )

Three-volume set updated annually featuring corporate profiles, brief biographical information about corporate directors and executives, and SIC listings, updated annually. Directory is also accessible online through Standard & Poor’s Net Advantage.

Standard & Poor’s Stock Reports: New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange, Nasdaq Stock Market and Regional Exchanges (New York: Standard & Poor’s Corp., 1998–)

Authoritative reference featuring two-page reports on 4,000 public companies and actively traded stocks for all stock exchanges. Entries include business summaries, financial and historical data, trends, and prospects for actively traded stocks. Includes seven-year income and balance sheet data for each company as well. Beginning in 1998, Standard & Poor’s combined the information for all public companies and stock exchanges into one reference. Previously, they were published as separate annuals. Titles include Standard & Poor’s Stock Reports: American Stock Exchange (February 1973–October 1997); Standard & Poor’s Stock Reports: Nasdaq and Regional Exchanges (June 1994–December 1997); Standard & Poor’s Stock Reports: New York Stock Exchange (January 1977–November 1997); and Standard & Poor’s Stock Reports: Over the Counter (March 1973–March 1994). Information is also found under the online database Standard & Poor’s Net Advantage.

Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, 96th ed., 31 vols. (New York: Thomas Publishing Company, 2006)

First published in 1906, this 31-volume reference provides complete contact information, including addresses, phone, fax, and toll-free numbers, names of subsidiaries, sales offices and corporate affiliations, on more than 165,000 U.S. and Canadian manufacturers, including separate product and service headings that make it easy to track brand names of manufacturers. Also available on CD-ROM and DVD-ROM. In 2006, the print edition ceased publication and was moved to the online database Thomas Net.

U.S. Industry and Trade Outlook 2000, 960 pages (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001)

Available online and on CD-ROM since 2001, this foremost out-of-print reference on business and economics, prepared jointly by the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the publisher, offers a comprehensive and revealing snapshot of U.S. trade and industry as of 2000. Combining industry-specific data and detailed studies from the government and private sector, this latest edition features analyses of the major U.S. industries and sectors, industry-specific outlooks for international trade, and discussions of domestic and global economic actions. Also included are 650 easy-to-read tables and charts, hundreds of industry reviews, analyses, and forecasts, and geographical snapshots of industry and trade trends.

Ward’s Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies, 53rd ed., 8 vols. and supplement (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Group, 2010)

An invaluable eight-volume reference that features 112,000 updated company  and industry profiles, including analyses of market position, specific  data on companies, and parent company and subsidiary relationships. Also available online and on CD-ROM.

Selected Full-Text Article Databases

ABI/Inform Global Edition (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest, 1971– )

Covering nearly every aspect of business, including company histories and new product development, this database cites, with some full text, scholarly articles about research in business and management from more than 1,100 international English-language business publications, including full text of the Wall Street Journal.

Academic Search Elite (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost, indexing: 1984– , full text: 1990– )

Devoted to all subject areas Academic Search Elite offers full-text sources for business and business-related articles from professional and popular publications.

Business & Industry (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale/Responsive Database Services, Inc., July 1994– )

With some 1,300 records added daily, this comprehensive online resource indexes thousands of articles, many in full text, from major business and trade journals, newspapers, and business-related government documents from 1994 to date; replaces the former database F & S Index: United States.

Business NewsBank (Naples, Fla.: NewsBank, 1992– )

This subject-specific database contains selected full-text articles from the business sections of almost 500 local, regional, and national business news publications in the U.S. and Canada, daily newspapers, and local business weeklies, including information on small companies generally available elsewhere. In addition, this electronic database provides complete coverage of selected business newswire services.

Business NewsBank Index (Naples, Fla.: NewsBank, Inc., CD News, 1986– )

Monthly CD-ROM index with quarterly and annual accumulations of articles from newspapers in 450 cities in the United States; searchable by company, geographic location, industry, personal name, and product.

Business Source Elite (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost, 1984– )

Indexes citations and full-text articles from 930 journals and magazines covering banking, business, economics, finance, management, and more. Includes full-text access to previously published articles in Business Week, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and the Wall Street Journal.

EconLit (Nashville, Tenn.: American Economic Association ICSA/EBSCO Publishing EBSCO Host/Elsevier Science Direct/Ovid Technologies Inc., Thomson DIALOG, 1969– )

Produced by the American Economic Association, this database features citations and abstracts for journals, books, dissertations, and working papers related to economics, and full-text of the Journal of Economic Literature.

Factiva (New York: Dow Jones & Co., Inc./Factiva, 1979– )

This Internet-based database (formerly known as Dow Jones Interactive) provides in-depth business and financial research, including full-text information from major newspapers and business magazines.

Global Newsbank (Naples, Fla.: NewsBank, 1996– )

Covering global news, this database provides direct access to some 400,000 fully indexed full-text articles from more than 1,000 news sources, including international newspapers and wire services, broadcasts, news agency transmissions, magazines, and government documents.

Investext Plus (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale, 1996– )

Provides access to analytical research reports on companies and industries from more than 500 major investment banks and brokerage firms worldwide. Also includes Mergent company and history and debt reports and trade association reports from more than 50 major industries.

LexisNexis Academic Business (Dayton, Ohio: LexisNexis, 1972– )

Extensively covers U.S. and international business news and trade publications, including company, industry, and market news, financial information, accounting literature, country reports and country analyses, and biographical information on leading business executives from popular references. Also searchable by company name and SIC code are international company reports, stock reports, bankruptcy reports, Hoover’s company reports, Standard & Poor’s corporate descriptions, disclosure reports, and annual reports (from 1972 to 1995).

LexisNexis Academic Universe (Dayton, Ohio: LexisNexis, 1977– )

Fully indexed full-text database covering a variety of categories, including business, industry, and market news, accounting, financial filings, and trade show information directory, and components of the LexisNexis Business database.

Mergent Online (New York: Mergent, Inc., 1993– )

Formerly called FIS Online, this subject-specific database offers detailed, full-text business and financial information for 23,000 U.S. and international companies, including fact sheets with business descriptions and company overviews, financial statements (downloadable to spreadsheet software), SEC filings (real-time and archived to 1993), and prospectuses for 2,000 U.S. companies. This database also provides easy access to current and historical annual reports, hard-to-get, timely annual reports on international companies, fully illustrated research reports from over 500 brokerage and independent research firms, and much more.

ProQuest Research Library (Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI ProQuest, 1986– )

This reference source (formerly called Periodical Abstracts Research II) provides abstracts and some full-text articles from more than 2.500 academic journals, popular magazines, and key business publications, including 239 general-interest publications and 212 business titles.

ScienceDirect (New York: Elsevier Science ISTN International/Thomson DataStar/Thomson DIALOG, 1994– )

This large full-text electronic collection of science, technology and medical journals published by Elsevier Science also includes many journals in the fields of business and finance since 1995, as well as back files to older articles.

Wall Street Journal (New York: Dow Jones & Co. Inc./Factiva/LexisNexis/ProQuest, 1984– )

In-depth coverage of national and international finance with access to full-text articles from this leading financial publication from 1984 to the present.

Selected Periodicals

American Banker (New York: American Banker, 1887– , daily)

A “must read” for those studying banking and related disciplines, this daily newspaper, aimed at professionals in American banking, features current news and timely articles covering all levels and all areas of banking and financial services. Coverage includes banking regulations, mergers and acquisitions, investment products and services, profiles of banks, and commentary and analysis.

Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly (Boston, Mass.: H. Bancroft, 1921–42; Barron’s, 1942–94; Chicopee, Mass.: Dow Jones & Co., 1994– , weekly)

Covering U.S. business and financial markets, Barron’s is a useful source of information for investment statistics and analysis of companies, market trends, and market conditions for personal investors and investment professionals Articles are available in full-text through ProQuest’s ABI/Inform (1942–1987).

Business Week (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1929– , weekly)

This popular business magazine provides well-researched and well-written articles including profiles of companies, analysis of company performance and industries, and more. Full text is accessible through LexisNexis Academic (January 1975– ) and Dow Jones News/Retrieval (1993– ).

The Economist (London: Economist Newspaper Ltd., 1843– , weekly)

Established in 1843, The Economist, published weekly, covers all aspects of free trade and free markets with expertly written articles that are easy to understand.

Forbes (New York: Forbes, Inc., 1917– , biweekly)

This influential financial magazine covers a wide range of business and economic news, focused mostly on the industry leaders, with articles written for a general business audience. Full-text coverage is available through LexisNexis (1983– ).

Fortune (New York: Time, Inc., 1930– , biweekly)

Known for its annual rankings of the “top 500” companies, the highest-paid executives, and more, Fortune magazine, first published in February 1930, covers business, investing, and personal finance. Articles include profiles of companies and executives, current management trends, and the performance of smaller companies and market segments. Full text is accessible through LexisNexis (1983– ).

Harvard Business Review (Boston: Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, 1922– , bimonthly)

Published since 1922, this leading bimonthly business journal emphasizes articles about management strategies, practices, policies, and techniques written by leading academic and business writers. Full-text articles available through Expanded Academic ASAP (January 1, 1997–May 1, 2000).

Money (New York: Time, Inc., 1972– , monthly)

Written for the consumer, Money provides helpful articles and information devoted to personal investing and retirement, and advice and tips on all types of investments, tax saving plans, and more for readers of all income levels.

Monthly Labor Review (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1915–2007, monthly)

First published in 1915, this journal of fact, analysis, and research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on everything concerning labor and the U.S. work force, bringing together top economists, statisticians, and experts from the private sector and others. Each issue covers a broad range of subjects, including the economy, employment, inflation, productivity, occupational injuries and illnesses, wages, prices, and many more. After ceasing publication in 2007, the journal is now available online at

Occupational Outlook Quarterly (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics in cooperation with the Veterans Administration, 1958– , quarterly)

Identifies labor trends for occupations and industries. Jobs with strong growth potential are regularly highlighted. The journal is also published in microform and accessible online.

Wall Street Journal (New York: Dow Jones & Co., 1889– , weekdays)

Known for its investigative reporting, The Wall Street Journal, the longest-running business journal in the United States today, is an excellent source of in-depth coverage of business, economic, and political news. Each issue offers expert analysis, opinions, and timely information about major and emerging companies, plus special features on a wide array of relevant topics.

Selected Web Sites

Bureau of Economic Analysis (

An agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes national, industry, international, and regional economic data.

Current Economic Conditions (

This report, known as the “Beige Book” and published eight times a year, summarizes the current economic conditions in each district of the Federal Reserve Bank. Each report features interviews with economists, market experts, and other sources of each region. Reports from 1996 to the present are accessible at this site.

Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) (

Created by St. Louis Federal Reserve District, the Federal Reserve Economic Data, also known as FRED, presents a myriad of historical U.S. economic and financial data. Items include daily U.S. interest rates, exchange rates, business and monetary indicators, regional economic data, and the balance of the Federal Reserve.

The Library of Congress Country Studies (

This site offers detailed analysis about the economic, political, national, and social security systems and institutions of countries around the world.

Monthly Labor Review (

Online version of the printed journal of the same name containing abstracts, excerpts, and full-text articles, in PDF form, plus monthly statistics on employment and earnings nationwide.

Resources for Economists on the Internet (

Sponsored by the American Economic Association, this directory lists more than 1,487 resources in 97 sections and subsections available on the Internet for those interested in or studying economics.

Survey of Current Business (

This statistical series covers monthly, quarterly, and annual statistics for the previous two years, cyclical for such areas as business sales and inventories, commodity prices, earnings, industrial productivity, labor force, personal income, and much more.

Treasury Bulletin (

Reporting on the fiscal operations of the federal government, this site offers vital statistics on the federal debt, bonds, notes, market yield, and other federal financial obligations. In addition, the report fully details positions of major foreign currencies, the state of the domestic economy, the most current growth rate of the gross domestic product, the latest rate of personal savings, and the federal deficit.

World Development Indicators (

Compiled for World Bank member countries, this site contains timely statistics on national accounts, international transactions, manufacturing, and monetary indicators around the world.

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