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Industry Research for Entrepreneurs: Home

Basic steps to follow for researching industries when writing a business plan.

Industry Research - How to get the full picture

1. Identify the Industry

  • Make a list of appropriate keywords to use. Both ABI/INFORM and Business Source Elite on EBSCOhost have searchable Thesauri which can help find relevant subject and descriptors. They are presented in a hierarchical system, so you can identify broader, narrower and related terms. Once you have your list of keywords, find relevant Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes – the 4-digit numbers widely used to classify business activities. The 2002 NAICS and 1987 SIC Correspondence Tables help you find the newer North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) that supplant SIC codes.

2. Locate Industry Surveys, Overviews & Reports

  • IBISWorld US & Global Industry Reports features over 700 reports on U.S. industries and a growing collection of global industry reports. The U.S. reports are written at the 5-digit level of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Each report provides data on Key Statistics; Industry Structure with market segmentation, major players, and market share; Industry Analysis of recent conditions and a five-year forecast; and Factors affecting the industry including economic conditions and management actions. Reports are updated up to four times a year depending on the popularity of the industry.

  • S&P Global NetAdvantage includes industry surveys. Each report begins with a survey of the current environment followed by a profile of the industry, a discussion of industry trends, an explanation of how the industry operates, key industry ratios and statistics, an invaluable section detailing how to analyze a company in the industry, and concluding with a glossary, industry references and comparative company statistics.

  • Mergent Archive

  • Hoover's includes industry overviews for more than 200 industries.

  • Gale Directory Library and Gale Virtual Reference Library provides access to a suite of their publications including industry essays and statistics.

  • Academic has detailed market research reports on selected products and services and demographic groups.

  • Passport GMID (Euromonitor) is an online database providing business intelligence on countries, consumers and industries. It offers integrated access to statistics, market reports, company profiles and information sources. 205 countries are researched, with extended coverage of 52.  

  • Frost & Sullivan TEAM Research provides in-depth market research reports covering: Aeorspace & Defence, Automotive & Transportation, Business & Financial Services, Chemicals Materials & Food, Healthcare, Information & Communication Technologies & more.

  • The Encyclopedia of American Industries, Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries and the Encyclopedia of Global Industries are integrated into Gale's Virtual Reference Library along with many other useful industry-related publications.

  • Global Insight includes market research on the health care and pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications industries.

  • GlobalData eTracks: Power eTrack or Oil & Gas eTrack

  • Industry Information Resources is a free resource that covers more than 250 industries. For each industry, it includes overviews, key issues, trends and the industry's outlook as well as financial benchmarking, compensation surveys and valuation resources. There are links to trade associations, publications and research firms.

3. Find Current News and In-depth Articles About the Industry

Articles published in leading business magazines, trade journals and newspapers often provide added depth and insight into an industry’s structure, strategy and competition. Factiva has complete coverage of industry news and articles. Lexis-Nexis has both current news and business articles. Both ABI/INFORM and Business Source Elite index, abstract and provide full-text for leading English-language business and trade magazines and journals. The Wall Street Journal covers all major industry developments.

4. Visit Industry Web sites and Leading Industry and Trade Associations

Nearly every type of business has one or more trade or professional associations to promote its interests and provide a forum to collect and share information. Use to find important industry-related Web sites, publications and associations.  Articles often mention trade and industry associations by name that can then be looked up in these sources. S&P’s Industry Surveys has a section devoted to industry references.

5. Look for Business-to-Business Marketplaces

Advances in IT have led to the proliferation of the Business-to-Business (B2B) Marketplaces which facilitate electronic commerce by optimizing merchandising, pricing and inventory information. B2Bs are virtual business communities that keep members up-to-date on news and issues that concern their industry, offer buyers’ guides, storefronts, auctions, training, education, career guidance and other services. Some industries have their own “portals”, such as ChemIndustry which claims to be the worldwide search engine of the chemical industry (take it with a grain of salt). is a B2B search engine. is a searchable directory of B2B sites.

6. Make a List of Leading Companies (Rankings)

Hoover's Online provides information on leading companies and their top competitors. Gale's Directory Library provides access to several publications that rank companies including Ward’s Business Directory and the Market Share Reporter.

7. Find Market Share Data and Other Industry Statistics

“Market Shares” is used as a descriptor in the ABI/INFORM records. Most of the articles databases can be searched for market share and other industry data. Gale Directory Library includes access to the Market Share Reporter. You can also use Lexis Nexis Statistical Universe to identify sources of industry statistics. S&P’s Industry Surveys are filled with key data on the industries covered. Passport GMID (Euromonitor) contains over a million demographic, economic and marketing statistics for 205 countries worldwide. The historic and forecast statistics enable you to build detailed country profiles and analyze trends from 1977-2015. SimplyAnalytics is a geodemographic database that enables you to map consumer, demographics, and business variables in custom maps and reports.

8. Use 10-Ks from Leading Companies to Gain Industry Insight

The Form 10-K is the annual report that U.S. public companies must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In the Business Overview Section companies are required to discuss the nature of competition in their industry. This section often delivers key insights into the competitive factors that shape an industry. You can retrieve 10-Ks from numerous sources, including Hoover’s Online, Factiva's Company Reports section or the SEC’s EDGAR database.

9. Compare Company/Industry Norms and Financial Ratios

Hoover's provides company/industry ratio comparison reports. Click on Financials in a company report and then on Competition to find a company’s most recent ratios compared to its top competitors. Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys include key industry ratios and statistics.

 10. Putting It All Together

Now that you are familiar with the key databases and selected Web sites that are important for industry research, good luck searching, analyzing and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.