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Business (General)

Research guide for general business topics

Company Research: Where to Begin

The first question you should ask is: Is the company public or private?

Information for public companies is easier to find because they are required to file with government agencies. Therefore, you will be able to find a lot of information about them on websites and in databases.

Private companies, however, are not required to provide their financial information to the public so their information may be completely or partially unavailable. 


Another important question to ask is: Is the company an operating unit (e.g., a subsidiary, division, or affiliate) of a parent company?

If so, you'll need to look up the parent company's information. For example, if you want information about the company Skype, you'll need to look at who owns it: Microsoft.

Company Profiles

To find company profiles, use the following databases. Here you can find information about a company's history, its subsidiaries, stock performance, corporate structure, finances, and more.

Company Directories

Contact information for a company can often be found by visiting their company website, or in company profiles within databases.

If you know the company about which you need contact information, look up the company profile using the following:

SIC & NAICS Codes

SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) codes were developed in 1937 to help classify areas of industry. Click here for a complete list of SIC codes.

NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) codes were developed in 1997 for the same purpose, to classify industry. Click here for a complete list of NAICS codes.


Though both codes are currently being used, NAICS is slowly replacing SIC. The latest version of NAICS was just released in 2012.

You can use these codes to look up industry-specific information in databases such as MarketLine, Nexis Uni, Business Source Complete, and many other databases.

For examples and more information, visit the Industries section of this guide.