Industry Research 201

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Tutorial Introduction


To understand an industry it is ideal to find information from industry trade groups AND from third-parties (e.g. analysts, research companies, news). Understanding what information you need will drive your research. 

HINT: With quality information from multiple sources you gain a better perspective in evaluating an industry.

This tutorial will provide an overview of finding industry information including

  • Industry trade associations
  • Third-party reports (e.g. SWOT)
  • Articles & News
  • Industry codes
  • Industry ratios

Industry Trade Associations

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Industry Trade Associations
These are associations (or groups) created by a group of businesses in a specific industry. "The primary goal of all trade associations has been to improve the business of its members. In pursuit of this goal, trade associations have conducted research, set industry standards, and represented their members' interests before legislative and regulatory bodies. Trade associations also have provided information to many audiences, including the general public, association members, and government officials" (p.1452).

Most associations help members by...

  • Creating standards of practice
  • Creating industry benchmarks
  • Publish statistics for and about the industry
  • Report on news that may positively or negatively affect the industry
  • Publish news about new methods/technology
  • Lobbying various levels of government
  • Public relations

Industry Trade Associations

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Many industries have multiple associations on various aspects of the field. Plus, many have state/local branches.

For example, below are a few for the airline industry.  

TASK: Select the four association links below (three open in new tabs) and compare the About or Mission of them. Q1) How are they similar/different? Q2) What information does each provide free, and Q3) what information is for members only?

Close the AFA, RAA, and IATA tabs.

TASK: Now go to Google search the term association and add an industry (e.g. association coffee).  Review the various associations.

Deciding which association to join depends on a company's mission, business, location, size, among other factors. Many associations let individuals join too.

Third-party Industry Reports

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There are research companies (e.g. IBISWorld, MarketLine) that compile statistics and write reports on various industries (large and small).  Unlike the industry association publications, these reports are written by a third-party, which provide a more objective point of view.

These third-party reports may include a

  • SWOT analysis
  • Forecast
  • Economic impact
  • Statistics
  • and other important information.

These research companies sell these reports and sometimes are hired by industry associations and companies to write a more detailed report for them.

Remember: It is always good to read multiple reports from these third-parties, and compare them to the information provide by the trade association(s) to get a better understanding of the industry.

Third-party Industry Reports

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The library provides access to industry reports from various research companies. Let's look at two examples from IBISWorld, Business Source Complete, and Business Insights: Essentials.

IBISWord About IBISWorld

Task: Go to the library homepage

  • Select the Databases button then the letter "I."
  • Select IBISWorld
  • Search - wireless
  • Select the "Wireless Telecommunication Carriers" report
  • Review the content for the ten tabs.
  • Perform a search on another industry
  • NOTE: Download any report as PDF (upper left corner)

Third-party Industry Reports

3 of 4Business Source Complete About BSC

Task: Go to the library homepage

  • Select the Databases button then the letter "B."
  • Select Business Source Complete 
  • In first search box enter: drinks and industry
  • In second box enter: "united states" and change the drop-down menu to Title
  • Search

  • On results page, select Industry Profiles (left bar)
  • Look for the report on the United States
  • Select the report on "Carbonated Soft Drinks," review record and report (open the PDF).
  • COMPARE: Notice how this report is similar and different from the IBISWorld report.

  • Perform a search on another industry or different country.

Third-party Industry Reports

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Business Insights: Essentials BIE

Task: Go to the library homepage

  • Select the Databases button then the letter "B."
  • Select Business Insights: Essentials
  • Type in search box: tires
  • Change search box drop-down menu to industry
  • Search
  • On results page, select "Tire Manufacturing
  • Now select one of the Industry essays
  • Go back and select one of the other categories (e.g. market share) in the tan box on the left side.

COMPARE: How is this information different than the information in Business Source Complete or IBISWorld.

Perform a search on another industry.

Articles & News

It is a good idea to find articles on your industry from various sources. These articles can help you see the latest trends and internal/external forces that may affect an industry. 

Ideally you read articles from business news and magazines (e.g. Wall Street Journal, Forbes) and from industry/trade publications. Trade publications are written by and for and industry (e.g. Air Cargo World, Progressive Grocer).

Task: Search - industry trucking trends - in all three sources below.

1) Search Business Source Complete (library homepage)

  • Select Databases and the letter "B" to locate it.

2) Search Global Newsstream (library homepage)

  • Select Databases and the letter "G" to locate it.

3) Search Google News

Compare results from all three.

Industry Codes

Since the 1930s, the federal government has used  industry codes to classify business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. economy, and to check the relative health of industries.

There are two systems

  • SIC (1937-1987)
  • NAICS (1997-p)

Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) System

Still used by the Security and Exchange Commission, so industry and research companies need to know it.

Task: Review the SIC Codes  (opens in new tab)


North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)

Today, NAICS is the standard used by the federal government and most industry and business research companies.

Task: Review the NAICS Code (compare to SIC)

How would you classify Google in SIC v. NAICS?  Notice NAICS is much more inclusive to today's industries.

Industry Ratios

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Industry ratios are quantitative indicators of financial strength and operating success. These ratios are benchmarks created by research companies who compile financial statements of many businesses in an industry to discover industry financial averages.

The ratios provide averages for an entire industry, and provide averages for different sizes (e.g. sales) and location (e.g. US region). 

Companies may use this information to see how they compare to the industry (average, outperforming or underperforming), and if they need to make adjustments.

Industry Ratios

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Let's go find Industry Ratios in Key Business Ratios (D&B).

Key Business Ratios (KBR)

Task: Go to the Library homepage

  • Select "K" from the A to Z list
  • Select Key Business Ratios from list
  • Select Continue on next page
  • You may search by SIC or NAICS code
  • In the NAICS box enter 221310
  • Enter key
  • Now you see the ratios which may be downloaded

NOTE: Also check IBISWorld industry reports (see previous pages), which has financial ratios from RMA in many reports. Always good to get multiple perspectives.


This tutorial covered many of the resources available from the library to investigate and research industries. 

Many of the resources are available on this guide, which you may bookmark on your own computer.

Company & Industry Research Guide


Where can you find quality industry/financial ratios?


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