How to Research an Industry

Getting Started

Determine What You Need to Know. 
Need or end-user usually determines sophistication and depth of information. Who is the recipient of the research and what is it being used for? Self-knowledge, presentation, report, etc.?
  • Conduct a Brainstorming session if possible.
  • Write down all information which you might want to know (notecards, computer, board)
  • Note all questions and ideas no matter how trivial or stupid they may seem at the time.
  • Try to organize the questions into categories such as: marketing, new products, statistics, media/info sources
  • Assign people to various tasks if working in a group. Prioritize and make a schedule.
  • Match the Questions to the Type of Source and then Specific Sources which might answer them. For example to find Industry Associations, one might consult various print or online directories such as  Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources or American Society of Association Executives.
  • You might want to look at the book:  Equity Valuation for Analysts and Investors  for ideas on how to evaluate an industry.
  • Also, look at  Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys   (found in Reference), which goes into detail on How to Analyze an Industry and particular ratios and other information to be aware of.

Questions Often Asked- Industry Analysis

You will want to get an general understanding/overview of the industry you are researching. The following are some of the best sources available:  Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys   (found in Reference),  or by going to Business Insights: Essentials   Industry Search, putting in the name of the industry or searching by SIC/NAICS code and choosing Industry Overview or Market Research (tabbed headings).

Look at the list of questions below and their corresponding sources (found in the sidebar)

  • Industry Codes ( or NAICS (North American Industrial Classification System) ). Having the code for the industry enables one to find companies in the same industry by using various print and online directories. See sidebar on Industry Codes on how to find them.
  • Look at the Industry Statistics Portal from the US Census Bureau
    This application provides access to the Census Bureau programs that provide economic data for a user-selected industry. Search by either typing in the 2012 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code or keyword into the NAICS SEARCH box above, or choose the industry from the SELECT AN INDUSTRY menu to the left.
  • News, Trends and Forecasts- (See Sidebar)
  1. Where is the industry now?
  2. Where might it be in 3-6 months vs 1-5 years?
  3. Is the industry in growth or retreat mode?
  • Economic Indicators
  1. What factors might influence how an industry might do?
  2. Is the industry a cyclical or non-cyclical industry?
  3. How much does the price of commodities which might be used in production effect the price?
  • Domestic vs International Markets
  1. Is the industry strong or weak domestically vs overseas? Is it effected by tarrifs, etc.
  2. Where does the industry make most of its profit?
  • Market Share (See Sidebar)
  1. Who are the dominant players (both companies and countries)
  2. What is the size of the market that they control or influence?
  • Financial Information (See Sidebar)
  1. Total $ size of industry
  2. Industry Financial Ratios
  • Innovations/New Products (See Sidebar)
  1. Does the industry come up with new products constantly or is it slow to change or develop?
  2. Are the products on a predetermined cycle such as cars? Is there certain times of the year new products are announced?
  • Legal and Regulatory Issues (See Sidebar)
  1. What are the current or future regulatory issues which might effect the industry?
  2. What are the major state, federal or international bodies which might have influence?
  3. Are the any possible pending bills or regulations which might have significant impact?
  • Information Dissemination-How Does the Industry Get Information Out to members & public? (See Sidebar)
  1. Trade Publications
  2. Industry Associations or Organizations
  3. Trade Shows & Conventions
  4. Governmental Information
  5. Major PR & Media firms, newswires, etc.


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Search Argos

News, Trends & Forecasts

The following are recommended. In the world of business,
anything older than 6 months is considered ancient history.
Search under the industry name or SIC/NAICS codes (if possible)
and keyords/subjects for such terms as:  trends, forecasts, predictions, etc.
    Business Insights: Essentials
    Business Source Premier (Original Interface)
    Business Source Premier (Special Business Interface)
    ABI/INFORM Collection
    Nexis Uni (replaces LexisNexis)

Market Share

Who are the dominant players? This is often mentioned in industry overviews and articles. Use the same sources listed under News, Trends and Forecasts and search using the industry name or SIC/NAICS codes and terms such as: market share or rank or ranking or top or leaders.

You might also want to try Statista -a database which has statistical and market share information on a wide variety of industries/topics.

Financial Information

Total Size/Sales  of the Industry-this can be found for major industries by consulting the following:
  1. Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys REF HC106.6 S74
  2. Value Line Investment Survey and searching the Industry coverage of 95 industries.
  3. Business Insights: Essentials -search under Industry by name or SIC/NAICS code. You might also search under Articles -putting in the name of the industry and then looking under Narrow by Subdivision for headings such as industry sales & revenue, statistics, market size, market share, etc.
  4. Business Source Premier (Original Interface) or Business Source Premier (Special Business Interface) -use a similar search strategy as for Business Insights: Essentials

Innovations/New Products

You might wish to search the following databases or websites using the name of the specific industry as a subject or using SIC/NAICS codes if posssible along with such words as: new products, service introduction, product introduction, etc.
  1. Business Insights: Essentials
  2. Business Source Premier (Original Interface)
  3. ABI/INFORM Collection
  4. Nexis Uni (replaces LexisNexis)
Also check out the Topic Guide: Researching New Products.

Legal and Regulatory Issues

When analyzing an industry, one should be aware of current and possible future regulatory actions, pending bills, laws and possible cases. The following sources may be helpful.
  1. Nexis Uni (replaces LexisNexis) -Go to Sources, Find Sources, Choose Publication Type, then News and Business Topics. (There are a wide variety of both industry and legal choices)
  2. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
    Codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the departments and agencies of the Federal Government.  The 50 subject matter titles contain one or more individual volumes, which are updated once each calendar year, on a staggered basis.  Each title is divided into chapters, which usually bear the name of the issuing agency. Each chapter is further subdivided into parts that cover specific regulatory areas.
    Government website for finding regulations issued by U.S. government agencies.
    Contains United States legistative information.  It plans to replace  There is currently a chart comparing of coverage dates between the two sources.

Information Dissemination

How does the industry get information out to both its members and to the public at large?
  1.  Trade Publications-identify these by going to the Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources  or to Serials Directory and searching by the industry name as a subject.
  2.  Industry Associations or Organizations -Search print or online directories such as Encyclopedia of Business Information Resources  (See Soft Drink Industry example) softdrnkind.pdf pdf or American Society of Association Executives You might also try Business Insights: Essentials -Go to Advanced Search, under Content Area, Search Associations.
  3.  Trade Shows & Conventions-try Trade Show News Network (TSNN) or BizTradeShows
  4.  Governmental Information-start with the Current Industrial Reports from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Census Bureau page. You can then search for information about your industry. Search Economic Census by Year from U.S. Census Bureau}, for total sales and number of employees as well as number of establishments in that business.
  5.  Newswires, etc. -Yahoo Industry Center and Nexis Uni (replaces LexisNexis) Choose Newspapers and Wires or Business and Industry


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