Even skilled business-research specialists are sometimes stymied when challenged to find reliable information in a timely fashion. Often, the best sources of specific data related to business are inaccessible or remain out of reach due to the high price tag attached to many subscriber databases. Beginning students as well as seasoned researchers soon learn that the key to success is clarifying what one needs exactly, and for what purposes, and then proceeding to search systematically through the various print and online tools, always alert to serendipitous sources that yield unexpected value. This essay updates one of the same name published in 2007. It highlights nearly 200 freely accessible and fee-based online resources selected for their overall quality and likelihood of answering basic questions associated with business research. Resources discussed appear at the end in the works-cited list, subdivided into the essay's twenty major topical sections.
The online business research landscape has changed since this essay was first published nearly a decade ago (CH, Apr’07). Some websites and products originally referred to have come and gone, but many important, still-relevant resources remain. What has not changed is the daunting nature of business research itself. Libraries of all types are fielding many more requests for business-related information. Specialists as well as those unfamiliar with business research are facing increasingly challenging questions. The scope of subjects that fall under the umbrella of business has always been broad. Adding to the complexity is the fact that a seemingly infinite number of disparate sources yield vital business-related data.
This essay highlights nearly two hundred online resources likely found in a business researcher’s arsenal. They have been selected for their overall quality and ability to provide useful information to support successful business research. All of the resources discussed are appropriate for academic libraries with relevant programs of study, and many for public libraries serving entrepreneurs and businesses in their communities. Effort has been made to cover a mix of freely accessible and fee-based subscription resources. However, business typically is an area of research in which the best information can be had only for a price. It should be noted, too, that some research questions will not have easy answers, even with access to every expensive business database available.
Resources are organized alphabetically by title within twenty categories and subcategories. Although many resources mentioned are useful for more than one type of business question, most are highlighted in one section only. The essay starts with multi-content/multi-subject business databases, followed by resources for finding company, industry, or international business information; marketing and consumer information; general business statistics; and resources for researching small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The final section highlights some valuable guides created by business librarians that should not be overlooked.
Resources requiring a subscription are accompanied by a price notice in the Works Cited list, indicated by a ($$) symbol. Due to the relatively high price tags of business databases, it is unlikely that a library would have access to everything listed in this essay, although it is reasonable to assume that most academic business libraries and larger public libraries would subscribe to at least a few of the fee-based products, either licensed directly or through a library consortium. Many online business databases offer separate corporate and academic versions. In most cases, the following product descriptions refer to the academic version; content may vary, depending on the institution’s subscription package. Because of the number of resources covered, a full report on the navigation and interface of each is not possible within the scope of this essay, but previous Choice reviews will report such details.
While online business resources are the essay’s focus, it is not the intention to downplay the usefulness of print works, especially for historical research. On the contrary, although many standard business resources mentioned in 2007 are moving toward a digital-only future, there are still many useful business reference sources available only in print format, even today.
Celia Ross is associate librarian at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. She may be contacted at email@example.com or @bizrefross on Twitter. This essay has been updated from the author's August 2007 bibliographic essay and condensed from her 2013 book published by the American Library Association, Making Sense of Business Reference: A Guide for Librarians and Research Professionals (CH, Apr'13, 50-4209).