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Business Research Resources

Introduction to Industry Research

Every company or business is part of an industry.  Likewise, every product fits into an industry.  Industry Research helps you learn about the current business climate including, but not limited to:

  • current size of your of your industry
  • sales figures for your industry
  • trends that will affect your industry
  • spending on your industry in your desired location

NOTE: Some industries are well documented and you will have a great deal of information available to you.  Other industries, will require you to dig deeper and check a variety of sources to piece together a comprehensive overview.  Try studying particular companies within an industry to get a better idea of the industry as a whole.

Step One: Indentify Your Industry Code

What is an Industry Code?
An Industry Code is a number that identifies a particular type of product or service.  Knowing your industry code will streamline your research and allow you to better organize and compare industry data.

In North America we use the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) to define industries in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

How do I find my industry's NAICS code?
Go to the NAICS page on the US Census Bureau website.  Use keywords related to your industry to locate the NAICS code.

Research Tip: Think about your industry in the broadest of terms.  Your industry exists, you just need to play with similar words or concepts. Ex. "music venue" didn't work? Try "theater" or "concert hall."


Step Two: Search Government Sources On Your Industry

Where do I find government resources on my industry?
The U.S. Census Bureau - The Census Bureau counts every business and publishes research on every industry

Pros: Research is broadly-focused, flexible, and freely-available
Cons: Data is potentially dated (the economic census takes place every 5 years, and new studies are not immediately available)

How do I locate information from the Census Bureau?
Make sure you know your NAICS code before proceeding!

Industry Snapshots
Examine statistics for the country over all, and see where your state ranks in areas such as:

  • Sales
  • Total employees
  • Total establishments
  • Average sales per employee
  • Average payroll per employee
  • and more . . .

American Fact Finder Guided Search
Mine for other reports produced by the Census and related to your industry, using this guided search.

Step Three: Search Library Databases

Why should I search a library database?
Library databases offer access to trade journals, research reports, and industry resources that are too expensive for you to purchase on your own.

What databases should I search?

Business Source Premier
A collection of trade journals, industry reports, company profiles and international research.

The James J. Hill Library has a variety of databases geared towards industry research.  Contact the James J. Hill Library for more information.