Finding Numeric Data: Financial Information on the Web
Chapter 8 of U of W Library’s eManual. Includes description of, and links to, Hoover’s, Bloomberg, New York Stock Exchange, and Nasdaq databases.
Finding Numeric Data: Statistics Canada
Covers The Daily, E-STAT, CANISM, and Statics Canada Community Profiles. [Access E-STAT and other statistical sites from RRC Statistical Data page http://library.rrc.ca/subjectguides/statistical/page_01.htm. For help in using E-ST AT, see the E –STAT Research guide http://library.rrc.ca/subjectguides/estat/page_01.htm
Commerce 209 Industry and Company Research Handbook http://web.archive.org/web/20051112024629/http://library.usask.ca/commerce/Comm209/Course_notes_comm209_main.html
Provides a basic understanding of how to locate company and industry information. Produced by University of Saskatchewan Libraries.
Research Companies Online
This business research tutorial presents a step-by-step process for finding free company and industry information on the World Wide Web. From the US but includes information on international business.
Associations and think tanks
C. D. Howe Institute http://www.cdhowe.org
Independent, Canadian non-profit, economic and social policy research institution.
Canadian Association for Business Economics http://www.cabe.ca/
For applied economists in business, governments, associations and other organizations, and those interested in business economics, the economics outlook, and policy.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives http://www.policyalternatives.ca/
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives offers an alternative to the message that we have no choice about the policies that affect our lives. We undertake and promote research on issues of social and economic justice. We produce research reports, books, opinion pieces, fact sheets and other publications.
Canadian Economic Association http://www.economics.ca/
The organization of academic economists in Canada.
Canadian Foundation for Economic Education http://www.cfee.org/en/
To help improve the economic capability of Canadians, CFEE has a wide range of resources and programs including publications, multimedia, teacher training, curriculum consultation, and research.
Conference Board of Canada http://www.conferenceboard.ca/
The Conference Board of Canada is the foremost independent, not-for-profit applied research organization in Canada. We help build leadership capacity for a better Canada by creating and sharing insights on economic trends, public policy issues, and organizational performance.
The Fraser Institute http://www.fraserinstitute.org/
An independent public policy organization, The Fraser Institute focuses on the role competitive markets play in providing for the economic and social well-being of all Canadians and as an international forum for policy ideas.
Online encyclopedias and dictionaries
The Biz/ed Glossary and Diagram Bank http://www.bized.co.uk/reference/glossary/index.htm
This site “has over 1000 business and economic definitions and nearly 200 of the most common diagrams for you to search or browse.” Also includes a list of acronyms. From a British “provider of Internet-based learning materials for the economics and business education community.”
Dictionary of Small Business http://www.small-business-dictionary.org/
Provides definitions as a ready reference to 2,500 of the most commonly used terms encountered by the start-up entrepreneur, the small business person, and the student of business theory.
EH.NET Encyclopedia of Economic and Business History http://www.eh.net/encyclopedia/
Designed to provide students and laymen with high quality reference articles in the field.
Encyclopedia of Law and Economics http://encyclo.findlaw.com/index.html
Attempts to survey the whole law and economics literature. Most entries contain two elements: a review of the literature, written by an authority in the field, and a quasi complete bibliography. Produced by the University of Ghent, Belgium.
New Business Now.com: Glossary of Terms http://www.newbusinessnow.com/information/glossary.htm
From a Canadian provider of business start-up and related services.
There are numerous subject guides available from the Red River College Library on business and economics. Check the Subject Guides Index at http://library.rrc.ca/Search/Subject-Guides.aspx
Economics (print-only) http://libguides.uwinnipeg.ca/content.php?pid=3378&sid=17790
From the University of Winnipeg Library. List print and online resources.
Resources for Economists on the Internet http://rfe.org
Annotated directory of economic resources on the Internet. A WWW Virtual Library site sponsored by the American Economic Association.
Business Links http://wpl.winnipeg.ca/library/onlineresources/internet/business.asp
From Winnipeg Public Library. This page provides links to selected business and financial websites. Links include general resources for business news and financial data as well as specific sites for company information, currency and exchange rates, government business, investing, real estate and small business. Includes links to stock exchanges.
Company Information and Trade Directories (Canadian) http://epl.bibliocommons.com/list/show/71329236_eplguides/71574794_eplguides-_business-_company_information_and_trade_directories
Company Information and Trade Directories (U.S. and International) http://web.archive.org/web/20060106024653/http://www.epl.ca/EPLMaster.cfm?id=COMPANYDIREC0003
Both compiled by Edmonton Public Library.
University of Manitoba. Elizabeth Dafoe Library. Virtual Reference Shelf. Business and Management http://libguides.lib.umanitoba.ca/content.php?pid=253987
Goldermann, Gail and Bruce Connolly. “Getting Down to Business.” Library Journal, Winter 2003 Net Connect, Vol. 128 Issue 1, p38, 6p. (fulltext on EBSCOHost Academic Search Premier)
Reviews electronic general business resource databases. ABI/INFORM by ProQuest Information and Learning; Business & Corporate Resource Center by the Gale Group; Business Source Premier by EBSCO Publishing; RDS Business Reference Suite by the Gale Group; Wilson Business Full Text by H. W. Wilson Co.
Major index for economics literature, produced by American Economic Association. Indexes and provides citations to >600 journals, books, working papers in the field of economics and finance.
Business Source Premier
World’s largest full text business database. From EBSCOhost.
Regional Business News
Provides comprehensive full text coverage for regional business publications. Incorporates coverage of 75 business journals, newspapers, and newswires from all metropolitan and rural areas within the United States. From EBSCOhost.
CBCA Current Events News: Newspapers, Newswires, Transcripts, Magazines
Includes Canadian titles focusing on current events. Current events is interpreted broadly to include politics, business, the arts, sports, and any other kind of news, whether happening in Canada or abroad. Newspapers, newswires, newsmagazines, as well as television and radio transcripts constitute the titles in the subset.
Reference General Reference: Journals, Magazines, Newsletters
This collection provides in depth access to a wide diversity of Canadian periodicals, ranging from academic titles to special interest publications to general magazines.
The following titles are all available via OCLC First Search:
Business and Industry
Contains important facts, figures and key events for international public and private companies, industries, products, and markets for manufacturing and service industries. Covers all the primary business information sources—from leading trade magazines, newsletters, and the general business press to international business dailies.
Includes information about library resources that describe regional business activities and trends and major stories on local firms, their products, and executives. Provides online articles from regional publications, Business Wire press releases, and major newspapers.
Business and Management Practices
Contains online articles about the practical aspects of business management. Includes case studies and how-to articles.
Provides selective subjects and bibliographic access to periodicals, books, hearings, reports, gray literature, government publications, Internet resources, and other publications from 120 countries. Includes materials in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish with English language abstracts and subject headings.
Contains more than 700,000 records, originally published in the PAIS Bulletin, 1915-1976. Complements the contemporary coverage of the PAIS International database, also available on FirstSearch.
Canada Business Network http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/
The main Government of Canada portal for Canadian businesses. Includes links to provincial and territorial government business sites.
Canadian Business News http://www.journalismnet.com/business/canada.htm#private
Links to Canadian business news and company information search sites from JournalismNet.
The EDGAR database is the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission portal to company filings.
Canada’s EDGAR. Annual reports and other securities information for Canadian companies.
Owned by the Economic History Association. Site includes a book review series, a collection of course syllabi, a directory of economic historians, the EH.Net Encyclopedia of Economic and Business History, several databases, numerous links to websites related to economic history, and the popular “How Much Is That” service which allows users to easily look up historical prices, interest rates, wage rates, GDP statistics, exchange rates and inflation rates.
Innovation in Canada: Business Intelligence http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives/20071115002346/http://www.innovation.gc.ca/gol/innovation/site.nsf/en/index.html
Internet based sources of information useful for understanding and implementing market research or competitive intelligence strategies within an organization. Contains company databases, how-to guides and websites as well as lists of experts in market research.
MetEc was an international academic effort to improve the communication of Economics via electronic media. It consisted of: Information on printed working papers on BibEc, data about electronic working papers on WoPEc, and World Wide Web resources in Economics on WebEc.
Standard Industry Classifications http://www.statcan.gc.ca/concepts/industry-industrie-eng.htm
The current classification in use at Statistics Canada is the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Canada, 2012. Site also links to other classifications and concordances to other industry classifications.
Industry Canada http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/icgc.nsf/eng/home?OpenDocument
Contains business and consumer information in the form of directories, industry overviews, reports, legislation, regulations, standards and statistics.
VIBES: Virtual International Business & Economic Sources http://web.archive.org/web/20040824075136/http://library.uncc.edu/display/?dept=reference&format=open&page=68
VIBES provided over 2,800 links to Internet sources of international business and economic information that are in English and available free of charge.
globalEDGE: Your source for Global Business Knowledge http://globaledge.msu.edu/
From Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business. Global Insights provides international business and trade information on over 200 countries. Offers reference desk and knowledge tools.
Canada Manitoba Business Service Centre http://www.canadabusiness.mb.ca/
The Canada Manitoba Business Service Centre website contains a collection of information on government programs, services and regulations as well as other items of interest such as E-Commerce, accessing technology and financing information. There is an extensive collection of relevant website links compiled by a librarian. The Reference and Trade Library has over 10,000 books, magazines and audio-visuals on Business Information.
University of Manitoba. Elizabeth Dafoe Library. Business. http://libguides.lib.umanitoba.ca/cat.php?cid=56311
Monday, February 17, 2014
From: Herron, Nancy L., ed. The social sciences: a cross-disciplinary guide to selected sources. 3rd ed. Greenwood Village, Colo. : Libraries Unlimited, 2002. pp. 93-97
Because the term economics has so many connotations, it would be misleading to present a single, rigid definition. Adam Smith, often referred to as the father of economics, defined economics as the “science of wealth.” Alfred Marshall, founder of the Cambridge School of Economics, defined it as the “study of men in the ordinary business of life.” Any undergraduate student taking an introductory economics course would define economics as a study of supply and demand. The scope of economics is also important, because it concerns the supply and demand of goods and services at the individual and institutional level as well as on a national and international basis. A consumer deciding what vegetables to buy at the supermarket and a nation making policy decisions about the flow of imports into its markets are both engaging in economic behaviour.
Economics can be subdivided into three major subfields: economic theory, applied economics, and economic history. Economic theory, also called pure or basic economics, is concerned with the relationships between variables in the economic system (e.g. , if “A” rises, then what will happen to “B”?). An economic theorist will study data, attempt generalizations, and then build these generalizations into theories. The theorist also develops economic principles by constructing a hypothetical situation to determine what should be the consequences of a course of action. Some of the greatest names in economics—Smith, Marshall, Ricardo, Mill, and Marx—were theorists whose ideas are still studied today. Once largely speculative, economic theory is now based on a priori reasoning and, increasingly, on mathematical modules and measurements.
In applied economics, economic theories are applied to Marshall’s “everyday business of life” by public and private policy makers. Policy decisions based on economic knowledge or reasoning are designed to bring about positive results, such as high profits or low taxes. Among applied fields are banking, public finance, labor and industrial finances, land and agricultural economics, and transportation. Some of these applied fields constitute areas of study that can stand alone. For instance, agriculture economics usually commands a separate department in most universities. Agricultural economists usually have their own professional associations and have amassed an enormous amount of literature and data that nearly exceeds that of all other fields of economics combined.
Economic history is the study of economic institutions in varying cultures and time periods. Often regarded as a branch of economics with little relationship to economic theory and applied economics, economic history has slipped into benign neglect in recent years. However, economic historians have discovered that the economic behavior of the past has implications for today. In addition, some of the statistical and mathematical procedures developed for economics have been successfully applied to historical problems.
There are two main branches of economics: microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics is concerned with the small economic unit, such as the household, a commodity, or an industry. It is dedicated to the study of resource allocation, which in its simplest form relates to the “making ends meet” of the budget-conscious household or corporation. Macroeconomics examines economic relationships on the large scale, such as looking at how the change in an economic variable affects the economy of a nation. An economist examining the impact of a plant closing on the buying behavior of employees’ households would be doing a microeconomic study; a thesis on the effect of plant closings on the unemployment rate of a state or country would be a macroeconomic study.
Brief history of economics
Obviously, economics has been around since the beginning of civilization, or since humans wanted something and had to choose from limited resources. Both Plato and Aristotle were students of economics, although to the ancient Greeks economics pertained to the management of the household. The Greek philosophers supported the notion of an exchange economy as a way for humans to build up their property of material possessions.
The genesis of modern economic thought paralleled the growth of trade during the Middle Ages. Monarchs, attempting to diminish the power of the nobility, extended trade privileges to towns. Guilds, the forerunners of today’s trade unions, developed as people became free to pursue livelihoods other than farming. As towns and guilds competed for business with other towns and guilds, the regulation of trade became an issue. Therefore, most early economic thinking revolved around issues relating to money, interest, revenues, and taxation. Slowly, intellectuals realized that financial concerns were related to other problems, such as population and natural resources. Early economic writings tended to be very moralistic and persuasive in tone because their authors were generally spokespeople for a guild, a church, a town, or a class with a cause to promote.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, two powerful schools of thought developed in Europe. In Great Britain, the mercantilist school grew in favor. Mercantilists, reacting to the growth of nationalism, advocated active government influence on the balance of trade and payments. They encouraged the export of goods in exchange for full employment and rapid economic growth. In France, a competing school developed that championed a “physiocratic” system. Followers of the physiocratic school were called “economistes” and they advocated a laissez-faire, or “natural,” economic system in which land, and not trade, would be the major source of wealth.
Adam Smith’s publication of The Wealth of Nations in 1776 1 established the classical school of economics that would flourish for more than 100 years. Heavily influenced by the physiocrats and their laissez-faire philosophy, Smith established the doctrine of free enterprise and attacked the mercantilists. Because he wrote about the economic aspects of particular political decisions, Smith established the school of political economy—the early name for contemporary economics. Other prominent political economists were David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Jean Baptiste Say, and Thomas Malthus. These classical economists were convinced that production, income, and consumption were based on economic laws, lending credence to the notion that economics was an empirical science.
A neoclassical school developed in the late nineteenth century. Led by Alfred Marshall, it promoted the concept of demand as integral to economic relationships. An excellent mathematician, Marshall was influential in establishing the use of mathematical formulas to explain economic theories.
This growing fascination with economics in Europe did not immediately translate into comparable activity in the newly formed United States. Although Adam Smith’s theories of free enterprise and laissez-faire would seem attractive to a citizenry recovering from a revolution, his ideas were not widely discussed in academic circles. American higher education was still heavily influenced by religious groups and clerics, who were suspicious of Smith’s ideas on religious doctrine and were not anxious to change the status quo.
The United States was in its honeymoon period, and the British influence in economics was found objectionable. British economists seemed to have a disdain for the service sectors (of which U.S. clerics and educators were a part), and they were too interested in the promotion of free trade among countries. America preferred to suppress foreign competition so that it could develop its domestic industries. Economics had to be adapted to U.S. audiences and philosophies. Not until the turn of the twentieth century was economics firmly established as an academic discipline, although the courses were usually taught under the auspices of political science. Economists were still not secure in teaching positions in higher education; this contributed to their leading the fight for academic freedom and the establishment of tenure in U.S. universities.
The Industrial Revolution radically changed society. Suddenly there were new economic concerns, such as the growth of railroads, high government expenditures, the influence of powerful unions, and the dire social conditions of many cities. At the height of the Revolution, a new school called “institutional economics” developed. This school championed the study of institutions—corporations, unions, interest groups—and their thirst for power and property. Led by Thorstein Veblen, more a social satirist than an economist, the institutional school for the first time examined the social role played by economic institutions.
The devastation of the Great Depression, which began in October 1929, emphasized the shortcomings of economic theory: It was inadequate for dealing with the real problems of employment and income. John Maynard Keynes, perhaps the greatest economist of the twentieth century, ushered in the “Keynesian Revolution” with his publication of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. 2 This seminal work advanced the macroeconomic approach to economic theory: It suggested that a government could establish policies leading to full employment and stable prices. Keynes advocated better government use of fiscal and monetary policy, and his policies are still promoted and widely discussed today, although not with the same fervour that they once were.
Economics has undergone tremendous growth since World War II. An understanding of basic economics is now integral to nearly every academic discipline, and the employment of economists in business, industry, and government is at an all-time high. Economics has become quite specialized and is now characterized by many subfields (e.g., consumer economics, health economics, behavioral economics, environmental economics).
Two things distinguish modern economics. First, economics has become a mathematically based discipline. Research is approached empirically, theories are expressed mathematically, and economists are finding that a grounding in statistical and mathematical techniques has become essential for almost any study of economics. The proliferation of computers, now accessible to most researchers, has enabled the processing of large datasets to prove and disprove economic hypotheses. The application of statistics to economics is called econometrics, and it constitutes the most rapidly growing field of economics. Despite an increase in the number of dissenting voices who believe the field should focus less on the “rational man” and mathematics, no viable alternative approach has risen to replace the status quo. An increase in dissent, however, may account for some of the increase in specialized subfields, including feminist, institutional, and post-Keynesian economics.
Second, we have moved into what is called the global economy, which has tremendous implications for economic research and policy decisions. The consequences of the Great Depression in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s dramatically demonstrated that economic problems have worldwide impact. Nations no longer operate as autonomous economic institutions but are linked by a strong bond of interdependence. Recognition of this is demonstrated by international collaborations, such as the economic summits of world leaders, by the amount of economic research generated by international agencies, and by the growing exchange of scholars at international conferences. Other manifestations are the expansion of development economics, which pertains to the study of economic growth of low-income nations, and the growing interest in the application of economics to the information revolution. This combination of information and high technology is revolutionizing how we function and interrelate with each other. Economics continues to play a pivotal role in addressing many of the questions and concerns raised by the networked information revolution.
Is economics a social science?
Economists now proceed in their research efforts by using the scientific method. They test theories by relating them to empirically observable data. Because economists cannot duplicate their data in a laboratory, they must use the empirical methods of social scientists, not scientists. Like any other social science, economics is subject to the vagaries of human nature; therefore, its theories cannot be totally reliable and accurate, as the following story illustrates.
In the spring of 1973, the U.S. consumer was shocked by a rapid escalation in meat prices. Government economists calculated that the price of meat would drop by the end of the year, as high prices would diminish the demand for meat and ranchers would loosen up supplies. Based on its research, the government established special policies to bring control to meat prices. However, the economic experts and their carefully calculated theories were unable to predict the behavior of U.S. homemakers. Angered by high prices, the homemakers demonstrated their power by quickly organizing a massive national boycott of meat, causing an immediate decrease in meat prices.
Economics cannot exist as an isolated science, because the understanding of many economic problems is related to an understanding of our social and political system. For example, a study of women in the labor force would not be complete without knowledge of the changing social mores that supported the moves of mothers and married women in the workforce. Like other social sciences, economics has policy implications. Desirable economic policy decisions must consist of both scientific economic analysis and socially ethical value judgments.
Nobel Laureate Robert Solow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote, “Modern economics tries hard not to be a social science, but it can’t help itself. Social institutions and relationships help shape the production and distribution of wealth. The power of wealth is sometimes reflected in social institutions.” 3 He would find a supporter in Douglass North, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Economics, who believes that traditional economics focuses too much on mathematics and not enough on human behavior. He finds that the beliefs a society has in common are not analyzed enough in traditional economics, and that the irrationality of people’s behavior contributes to the success or failure of economics. 4
The literature of economics
The literature of economics has evolved as the discipline has grown in breadth and complexity. Early economic works were either pamphlets that protested or advocated a cause or, beginning in the eighteenth century, full-length studies of economic theories. Economists have drawn from monograph literature for centuries: When Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of The Nations in 1776, he cited nearly 100 authors. Early economists seriously studied existing literature to make sure that their “original” theories had not been expounded earlier. They borrowed heavily from the business world, using materials such as journals of mining and banking, annual reports of railroads, and the histories of industries.
Early theorists such as Smith, Marshall, and Marx became prominent through their monographs. Their works generated a flood of secondary works that questioned, interpreted, and modified their ideas. Even today, monographs continue to be published that discuss the theories of these economists.
As the discipline grew more scientific, the literature of economics changed. Professional economics associations, such as the Royal Economics Society (1890), were organized, and founded journals. These journals grew in importance as timely channels of economics communications became necessary. The first economics journal was the Quarterly Journal of Economics, founded by Harvard University in 1886. Soon professional journals supplanted monographs as the most popular research tools for the burgeoning number of economic faculties, researchers, and students.
As economists began to explore econometrics and built theories that required analysis of data, access to statistics became critical. Government publications, which expanded rapidly in the twentieth century, now supply much of the statistical data necessary for manipulation. International organizations, especially those affiliated with the United Nations, also provide economic data and sponsor specialized research. The advent of computerization meant that these statistical data could be easily processed and disseminated.
The urgency to publish research before it becomes obsolete has led to the development of another form of literature, the working paper or “gray” literature. Working papers are semipublished papers or preprints, in which they are not yet available through official channels such as journals or books. Instead, they are inexpensively produced and distributed by the author, a department, or an organization, such as the National Bureau of Economic Research. Many organizations now provide access to the full text of their working papers via the Internet. In addition, several resources have been developed that allow scholars to search the content of the working papers made available by many of these organizations at once. The dissemination of working papers, particularly in electronic form, overcomes the problem of publishing lags so common with journals in the social sciences. Another advantage of working papers is that they often elicit informal feedback for their authors. Those papers with special merit may eventually find their way into print, but by that time the information will have already been received by the researchers who need it.
As economics has expanded in size and influence, a tremendous body of literature has grown correspondingly. Economics researchers must wade through this labyrinth of material and statistics. Trends in recent economic literature reveal both an increasing global emphasis and the interdisciplinary nature of economics. Economics is viewed as being integral to many of the sweeping concerns of the new millennium, such as environmentalism, internationalism, and the growth of the networked information society. Each new subfield established has necessitated the development of new journals and other forms of publication. This means that not only must economists be familiar with the literature of their own speciality, they also must stay abreast of techniques and theories being developed in other specialities that could be of value to them.
The American Economic Association’s subject classification scheme, which is used to organize economics literature, is continuously reviewed and modified to reflect these trends. New classifications recently added include information and Internet services, trade and environment, alternative energy sources, technological change, choices and consequences, and economics of gender.
Following is a selective and, of necessity, subjective list of economics reference works that could form the core of a reference collection. Because many of these sources are scholarly or heavily statistical in nature, they would be most appropriate for an academic library reference collection. They are representative of the types and variety of reference sources that today’s economists use to satisfy their information needs.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Herron, Nancy L. The Social Sciences: A Cross-Disciplinary Guide to Selected Sources, 3rd ed. Greenwood Village, Colo. : Libraries Unlimited, 2002. pp.121-125
Gary W. White
Business administration and closely related disciplines probably generate more information sources than any other area in the social sciences. The demand by the business community for an array of types of information has driven the publication of print and electronic business resources to an all-time high. There are several recent trends that contribute to the need for data for a variety of purposes.
The United States experienced an unprecedented economic boom during the last ten years. Beginning in 1991, the U.S. economy enjoyed continued economic growth, lower inflation, and lower employment. In fact, consumer inflation in 1999 was only 1.9 percent, the lowest in thirty-four years, 1 and unemployment in November 2000 was below 4 percent. 2 The tremendous stock market boom was at the same time a significant cause of this prosperity as well as a reflection of the economic strength of the United States. As of spring 2000, Federal Reserve data showed that nearly 50 million households, roughly one-half of the United States, now have investments in the stock market. The corresponding growth of online trading and day trading is also significant. A recent report by Forrester Research showed that 26 percent of Americans trade stock online. 3 There has been a correspondingly high demand for information related to investing and other areas of business, such as company or industry information and news, as more and more Americans entered the stock market.
The business downturn that began in late 2000 and has extended into 2002 has brought a new urgency to the demand for business information, economic intelligence, and new paradigms of management.
The rise of the Internet during the 1990s revolutionized the world. In libraries, it changed the very core of information delivery. Business-related informational sites constitute a huge portion of the Internet. In addition to “democratizing investing,” because information is now readily accessible to everyone, the Internet also allows users unlimited potential in the search for information. The myriad of resources can, however, make these searches difficult. Other technological developments, especially those dealing with networking and communicating, further change how businesses operate and the nature of the informational needs of those seeking business information. The other impact of the Internet is the rise of Web-based businesses, or electronic commerce. E-commerce related ventures have contributed to the huge increases in the stock market as well as fundamentally changing how businesses operate and generate revenues. These trends, again, affect the need for informational resources in a variety of formats, especially electronic. To illustrate the impact of the Internet, one writer suggests that things are changing so fast that one business calendar year equals seven Internet business years. 5
The other major trend of the last decade is the globalization of business. The breakdown of political systems in some countries, coupled with advances in telecommunications and the Internet, have allowed companies to enter new markets at an unforeseen pace. The downside is that the United States is now affected by events in other countries, such as the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998. 6 In terms of business information needs, globalization of business has created a growing demand for country information, market research, political and economic risk, and demographic data. An awareness of these ongoing trends is important in using and interpreting business information resources. In addition, the value of information is readily apparent to companies operating in today’s global environment. The ability to obtain and apply current information is directly tied to the ability to survive and succeed. The rapid growth and changing nature of business information products reflect this demand.
Functional areas of business
A basic understanding of the major functional areas of business is important in the provision of effective business reference services. The more knowledge one has about each of these areas, the more one increases the understanding of reference queries as well as the ability to locate appropriate sources of information. A summary of the scope of each function, including examples of typical information, follows.
Accounting is the basic system used to record and report data related to the operations and events that affect a company. Accounting data can be used by the management of an organization to plan, make strategic decisions, budget, and track performance. Accounting data are also useful to outside parties, including investors, creditors, and regulatory agencies. The financial data reported by a company to provide a measure of the profitability as exemplified by the income statement, which describes earnings or profits, and the balance sheet, which summarizes assets, liabilities, and shareholder equity. Financial accounting is sometimes referred to as the branch of accounting that provides those outside the organization with information, while managerial accounting refers to accounting data used by the owners and employees of a business.
Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP) are the rules and procedures used to record and report financial information. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is an independent, non-profit organization that is the primary body determining financial accounting standards in the United States through the creation of new or modification of existing accounting principles. The main purpose of GAAP is to ensure that financial activities over time. Reference works related to GAAP and FASB are covered in this chapter.
Finance is the field of business concerned with maximizing shareholder wealth through the effective management and use of various competing financial resources. Finance encompasses several basic components. Capital budgeting is an area of finance concerned with the cost of capital and the valuation of assets. The second area is corporate finance, which involves the study of finance as it relates to the individual firm. Included are such topics as making investments, acquiring capital, and managing daily cash flow. Money, banking and financial instruments, including stocks, bonds, and treasury securities, make up the third branch of finance.
Management refers to the coordination of all of an organization’s resources, including fixed assets such as property, financial, information resources, and human resources to meet the goals of the organization. Coordination of resources is achieved through planning, acquiring resources, organizing or allocating resources, and controlling. Over the years there have been numerous schools of thought and theories related to management. The most comprehensive definition views management as the integrative process by which individuals create, maintain, and operate an organization through the selection of a set of goals. The discipline is firmly grounded in the behavioral and social sciences, and information seeking in management reflects interest in research on topics such as strategic planning, motivation, job satisfaction, leadership and knowledge management.
Marketing is the business function concerned with getting the firm’s goods or services into the hands of the customer. It includes such activities as product life decisions (including new product information), consumer behavior, pricing, distribution, branding, selling, advertising, and public relations. The four variables that a company can control are known as the four Ps: product, place, promotion, and price. Market research may be the most information-intensive activity of the organization because it is the attempt to uncover critical factors related to new product development, target markets, competitor activities, size and characteristics of the of the market, pricing, and advertising. Most good market researchers are familiar with standard businesses reference materials that may provide information on topics ranging from the disposable income of households in a particular geographic location to the amount of money a competitor is spending on advertising. The section of this chapter entitled “Marketing, Demographics, and Advertising” covers the standard marketing reference materials.
Information is a key commodity that is crucial to the success of a company. However, it typically is not segmented into the various functional areas described above. Rather, information from these areas is integrated and viewed as a strategic resource essential to the entire organization. A single piece of information may be of use to those in various departments and levels of the organization. For example, demographic or economic data will be of interest to managers as well as those in product development and advertising.
Primary versus secondary information
We have already discussed the concept of information as a central, strategic commodity. Information can be further classified as either primary or secondary. Primary data are collected to fill a specific research need. For example, to solve a particular problem or answer some specific questions, a company may decide to collect data through a market research survey or by conducting an experiment. Secondary data consist of information that is collected for purposes other than the research need at hand. Internal secondary data are available within the organization in such sources as accounting statement, sales records, or other information on a company’s intranet. External secondary data are gathered from sources outside the organization, such as suppliers, competitors, customers, and libraries. If a company examines its sale records to gather demographic data about its customers, it is engaged in an examination of internal secondary information. If the same firm decided to conduct a literature search for information on consumers of products similar to their own, this material would also constitute external secondary data. The company is making use of data gathered by someone outside the company for reasons that are related to the company’s information need but were not specifically gathered for that company. This chapter deals exclusively with external secondary data sources available in business libraries.
Key business research concepts
Public and private companies
All companies are classified as either public or private. The differences between private and public companies have an enormous impact on the types of information that a company is required to disclose and that which is made available to the public. Privately owned companies are established either by an individual (single proprietorship), a small group of individuals (partnership), or a larger group of investors (closely held). The funds that are used to establish and operate private companies have been invested by individuals who hope to gain some profit from their investment. Because the company is wholly owned by these individuals, there are limited legal disclosure requirements. Laws governing corporations vary from state to state. Therefore, it is very difficult or impossible to find out what the earned income of the local corner store or gas station has been for the past year. The privately owned firm is simply not required to disclose any financial information to the public, so it usually does not.
Publicly owned firms are companies that are owned by shareholders. The Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 were enacted to oversee the formation and operations of publicly traded corporations, to protect the public from investor fraud, and to require that vital information be provided for public inspection. Public companies therefore publish annual and quarterly reports (among others) that contain financial statements that have been verified for accuracy by major accounting firms. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was established to provide oversight and to ensure that disclosure standards are followed by each publicly owned firm. Information from publicly traded companies is available to the general public and is therefore far easier to locate. Information supplied to SEC is used to create many standard business reference sources.
When conducting company research, the first step must always be to establish whether a firm is public or private. If it is public and traded on one of the stock exchanges or over-the-counter (a computerized network of security dealers), it will always be possible to gather financial information about that company. The major stock exchange in the United States is the New York Stock Exchange and the major over-the-counter is the NASDAQ (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation system). There is also likely to be considered commentary on the company’s prospects or performance provided by analysts and the business press. Researchers can thus find information through annual reports and other SEC filings or through indexing and abstracting services covering the business literature. Sources are described more fully in this chapter under the “Company Information” and “Indexing, Abstracting, and Full-Text” sections.
On the other hand, finding information on the privately owned local company will require completely different tactics. It may be necessary to interview suppliers, competitors, or customers to begin to assess its financial health. Frequently one must rely on industry data as the only reliable secondary source of information available in published format. One other point to bear in mind is that some companies (e.g., banks, public utilities, insurance companies) belong to industries that are regulated by state or federal government agencies. Sometimes these companies are private or subsidiaries of other companies and are not selling stock on the open market. However, they are still required to disclose financial information. A number of the standard business directories listed in this chapter enable the researcher to determine the legal status of a company.
Corporate parents, subsidiaries, and affiliates
Research on public companies can be confusing because a large company can be a parent company (a company that owns or controls another company); a subsidiary (a company owned or controlled by another company, i.e., the parent company); or an affiliate (a company that has an owner at less than 50 percent). Sometimes researchers are also interested in specific divisions or internal units of a company, or joint ventures, which are businesses in which two or more companies own ownership.
The large numbers of mergers and acquisitions over the past decade has had a major impact on the strategy a researcher must use to locate information on a firm. The concept of parent and subsidiary is important with regard to public companies because such companies are legally required to disclose financial information at the parent level. This means that it is sometimes difficult to determine the exact financial status of a subsidiary corporation or to determine how subsidiary performance is affecting the corporation’s overall performance.
Although parent companies are not required to report the segment income of their subsidiaries, many frequently do. The important point to bear in mind is that the information search must initially focus on the parent company if one is attempting to find information about a company that is a subsidiary of another. This chapter presents a number of reference tools that can assist in determining parent and subsidiary relationships as well as other business relationships between companies.
An industry is a group of companies that are involved in the same type of business. For example, American Airlines and United Airlines are both companies that operate in the air transportation industry. When conducting research on a company, it is also important to gather information on the industry in which it operates. Industry research provides insight into the performance of the specific company in relation to the other companies in the industry. Until recently, industries were classified by a system known as the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. This system, developed by the Office of Management and Budget of the U.S. federal government, assigns four-digit codes to each industry. This system, in place for over fifty years, has recently been replaced with the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS). The six-digit NAICS code will provide more specific industry classifications. In addition, NAICS includes over 350 industries, including many service and technology industries, not classified by SIC. The “Industry” section of this chapter covers the SIC and NAICS systems in more detail and covers the standard reference sources for conducting industry research.
Business periodical literature
For those conducting research, it is critical to have an understanding of the distinctions among trade, popular, and scholarly journals. Trade journals are typically published for a specific industry and are produced primarily for practitioners in that industry. Many trade journals are published by professional trade associations for a particular industry. Examples are Advertising Age, Air Transport World, Supermarket News, and Chemical Week. Many of these journals publish important information about the industry that may be difficult to locate elsewhere.
Popular business titles are those titles available at newsstands. They are aimed at a mass audience and are typically distributed on a national basis. These titles provide coverage of the major events and trends affecting businesses, as well as articles on specific companies or individuals. Examples are Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., and Money. Many of these titles publish reference information, such as the Fortune 500 or Business Week’s ranking of business schools.
Timeliness of information is essential to meet the needs of researchers and those in the business community. An awareness of the scope and structure of the business periodical literature is necessary to have a good overview of how to conduct research and find information. The indexing and abstracting services section of this chapter are important tools to navigate the business periodical literature.
In organizing and outlining the most important guides, handbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference sources, arrangement can be either by format (e.g., handbook) or by type (e.g. company information). However, business information sources generally fall into both types of categories. Thus, this chapter is arranged by dual fashion. The result is that users will have a good overview of major business reference sources by type and by format. However, sources are not duplicated.
The sources presented in this chapter will provide the business researcher with a good overview of the basic business reference sources that are found in most libraries. A familiarity with these sources and the information they provide will aid any librarian serving those with business-related questions.
Monday, February 3, 2014
Finding Numeric Data
Finding Numeric Data:Stats Can
Finding Numeric Data:Stats Can