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Business: A Guide to McFarlin Library Resources: Business Research Strategy

Business Research Strategy

First, ask yourself the following questions to define the type of data you are seeking and to suggest appropriate sources.

  • Is the information I need...
    • company information?
    • industry or product information?
    • business climate or environment?
    • management theory or practice?


  • Is the information I need.... specific or is it general?. For example, do you need information about a specific company or product (IBM) or about companies or products in general (all computer companies)?


  • Is the information I need ... quantitative or is it narrative?   For example, are you looking for a discussion of industry trends and forecasts (narrative) or for a chart showing sales growth over the past 5 years (quantitative)?


  • What timeframe does the information I need include?  Do you need only current information or are historical trends needed?  For example, for an industry trends project, you would probably want historical, current and future information.


Second, develop a research strategy.

Company Information

Specific company Comparing several companies
  • Directories
  • Annual reports, 10-Ks, financial filings
  • Ranking lists, Market Share Reporter
  • SIC indexes


Industry or Service

Trends or forecasts Industry information
  • Industry surveys
  • Trade journal articles
  • Industry annuals
  • Online Sources
  • Trade association publications
  • Journal articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Online Sources


Business Climate or Environment

Economic data Regulatory data Socio-cultural data Technological factors
  • Economic indicators
  • Market indicators
  • Economic Report of the President



  • Government regulations at the federal, state, local, or international level
  • Professionals standards within the industry


  • Lifestyle data
  • Trend publications
  • Country cultural profiles



  • Journal articles
  • Industry publications





Management Theory or Practice

Management practice Standards
  • Handbooks
  • Manuals
  • Journal articles
  • Professional association publications




Third,  check out general reference tools.  The term reference tool generally means a publication providing concise, factual information arranged for quick perusal. Consider checking these sources first when you need background information or context. They will often be the only source you need.


McFarlin Reference Sources

1)  Determine the call number range for your topic and browse the Reference shelves in that area. 

2)  Using a "Keyword" search in the Library Catalog, combine the subject you wish to locate with terms such as "encyclopedia", "manual", "handbook", "directory", etc. For example:

  •   marketing directory
  •   business encyclopedia
  •   advertising handbook


Almanacs and Yearbooks

A collection of facts, statistics, charts, lists, and so on, pulled together to provide a "first place to look". They may be general such as the World Almanac, or subject specific such as the  Almanac of American Politics. They are almost all updated annually. For example:

Statistical Abstract of the United States  Access latest edition



These provide definitions of terms. Subject dictionaries cover the terminology of specialized fields.  If the publication has lengthy explanations, it will be found under encyclopedias. Typical dictionaries include:

Dictionary of marketing and advertising    McFarlin Electronic Books  

Dictionary of business terms  McFarlin Electronic Books



A listing of people or organizations giving brief information such as address, telephone number, number of members, and so forth. Included here are membership directories, who's who types of publications, telephone books, and specialized directories by geographic location or line of business. For example:

Million Dollar Directory       McF Ref  HG4057 .A235

Directory of international direct and e-marketing  McFarlin Books HF5415.126 .D57

International directory of company histories  McF Remote Storage  HD2721 .I63



These resources provide short or long descriptive articles on general or specialized topics. General encyclopedias offer variety. Subject encyclopedias have a particular focus. For example:

Encyclopedia of Associations  McF Reference AS22 .E5

The International Encyclopedia of Marketing   McFarlin Books  HF5415 .N58513


Handbooks and Manuals

Handbooks, sometimes called manuals, offer quick, factual information.  Most business handbooks focus on specific business activities such as accounting, insurance, or logistics.

A Handbook of management techniques  McFarlin Books HD31 .A72

The Media handbook    McFarlin Books HF5826.5 .K38


Online Sources

McFarlin Library subscribes to a number of online sources that will yield company and industry information, trends, forecasts, and financial reports.

Library Staff

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Amanda Ferguson
McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa
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