Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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

Industry Research Strategy

Industry Research Strategy


This is a selected guide for research on Industry Information in the McFarlin Library Collection.




Search Strategies


Industry research is important for strategic planning. Designing marketing plans, tracking company performance, assessing competitors, and evaluating capital investment all depend on good industry intelligence.

Also information is often not provided exactly as you may be seeking it. Many general resources provide background on a broad level which still contribute to a good business analysis. Once you've spent some time evaluating the industry, related research such as company assessment will be easier.


Industry analysis

Elements to analyze
Definition of the industry Structure of the industry Historical development Growth patterns
  • identify the industry classification code
  • identify the broader industry group


  • identify the major divisions of the industry


  • established or newly developed



  • rate of growth
  • seasonal or steady




Elements to analyze, cont.
Present trends Competition Customer characteristics Environmental factors
  • identify current patterns



  • identify the names and market share of the major companies in the industry


  • buying and selling patterns



  • economic climate
  • technological developments
  • social & demographics characteristics


 Industry data is often reported in broad or aggregated form.  Use it to provide background for your analysis.


The following steps will help organize the research process:

  • define the industry
  • determine the SIC or NAICS code for the industry
  • develop an overview - use multi-industry publications
  • use guides to the literature to find relevant publications
  • identify trade associations for the industry
  • look for relevant statistical sources such as sales data and production figures
  • browse periodical and newspaper indexes to find articles on recent developments
  • search Internet sources


Finding Background Information

To find articles about a particular industry, search the following electronic indexes:


Business Source Complete  via EBSCOhost


Business Source Elite provides full text from over 1,020 journals covering business, management, economics, banking, finance, accounting and much more. In addition to the full text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for nearly 1,560 journals. This database contains popular business publications such as Business Week, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review, and hundreds of scholarly, peer reviewed journals. Also included is Wall Street Words, a dictionary of financial terms, linked directly to words within the citations and full text.

 Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys


 Standard & Poor's is a comprehensive source of business and investment information, offering on-line access to Standard & Poor's independent  research, data and commentary on stocks, bonds, funds, anad industries.


Mergent Online  

 Mergent Online's enhanced features and functions include the ability to:

  • Research 15 years of detailed financial statements
  • Customize viewing and output to retrieve precisely the information you need
  • Export company reports and financials into software applications such as Microsoft® Word, Microsoft® Excel or Adobe® Acrobat® Reader®
  • Execute accurate cross-border searches using a variety of financial and text variables
  • Compare multiple companies' reports
  • Access site via user ID or IP authentication
  • View more than 115,000 images of company annual reports" -- Mergent website

Background guides

Use these guides to identify resources such as industry journals, statistical sources, and trade associations for the industry:

McF Reference; AS22 .E5 


Encyclopedia of associations


McFarlin Books; HF5353 .E9  


Encyclopedia of business information sources


McFarlin Books; HF1042 .N6


NAICS: United States


McFarlin Books; HD2425 .D53


National trade and professional associations of the United States


Follow web link


Standard Industrial Classifications (SIC) Index



Overviews and surveys

The following sources are helpful in providing an overview of the industry:

McFarlin Books; HD9721 .E53


Encyclopedia of American industries


McFarlin Books; HD9721 .M364 


Manufacturing USA : industry analyses, statistics, and leading companies


McFarlin Books; HD9981.1 .S47


Service industries USA : industry analyses, statistics, and leading organizations


Follow link - Online source


Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys


McF GovDoc Reference; C 61.48: 


U.S. industry & trade outlook


McFarlin Books; HF3001 .U86 


U.S. market trends & forecasts


 Follow link - Online source


Value Line Investment Survey


McFarlin Books;  HF5421 .W58  Wholesale and retail trade USA


Industry norms and business ratios

Industry ratios give an average of costs and expenditures in specific industries. Company strength can be evaluated by comparing the company ratios to the industry standard.  Ratios are used for financial analysis of assets, debt, sales, profit, labor, advertising, etc.

The following specialized sources are helpful in finding information on industry norms and business ratios:

McF Reference; HF5681.R25 A45


Almanac of business and industrial financial ratios


McFarlin Books; HD2346.U5 F55


Financial studies of the small business


McFarlin Books; HF5681.R25 I53  


Industry norms and key business ratios


McFarlin Books; HF5681.B2 R6  RMA Annual statement studies


Industry statistics

Statistics such as average industry production levels, annual sales, and market size can contribute to your understanding of the industry.

The following sources are helpful in finding information on industry statistics:

McFarlin Books; HD9721 .M364


Manufacturing USA


McF Reference; HD9981.1 .S47


Service industries USA


Follow link - Online source


Mergent Online


Follow link - Online source


Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys


McFarlin Books; HF5421 .W58 


Wholesale and retail trade USA




Economic Indicators & Statistics

Sources of economic statistics assess the overall direction of the economy. They are typically collections of data from a variety of originating agencies. They may also provide a useful historical pattern.

The following sources are helpful in finding information on economic data:

Follow link


Budget of the United States Government


McF Reference;  HC101 .S978


Business statistics of the United States


Follow link


Consumer Price Index


McF Reference;  HC103 .F9 2006


Guide to economic indicators 


Follow link


Producer Price Index


Follow link - Online source 


Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys


McFarlin Government Docs; C 3.134


Statistical abstract of the United States




Industry Information on the Web

Searching for industry information on the Web requires creativity. Possible sources are trade or professional associations related to the industry.

Census Bureau

Web site for Census data such as Economic Censuses and Current Industrial Reports.

 Hoover's Industry Snapshots

Hoover's, Inc. delivers comprehensive company, industry, and market intelligence that drives business growth. Hoover’s provides sales, marketing, business development, and recruiting professionals with the global business intelligence they need to prospect and prepare for client meetings, sales presentations, vendor and partner negotiations, and other business opportunities.

Yahoo Industry News