Questions to Ask
Questions to be asked prior to beginning your research
This series of pages is intended to be a guide for University of Pittsburgh students who are conducting company and industry research. Most online sources listed here are restricted to University-affiliated users who are using on-campus computers or who have a logged into the library website here.
Questions to be asked prior to beginning company research:
- What is the complete, official name of the company? Are there possible variations in the name? Do you have the correct spelling?
Many companies are known by a popular name or a tradename which is different from their official name. Most resources will list companies only by their official name. Be aware of companies which are named after an individual. First names (eg. Walt Disney Company) or initials (eg. H. J. Heinz) may be part of the official name. Furthermore, a resource may either include or ignore first names and initials when entering and alphabetizing, and some resources are inconsistent. Also, initials can be alphabetized in different manners. Be prepared with spelling variations, even when you feel you are certain of the spelling.
- Is it a publicly-held or privately-held company?
A publicly-held company is one that openly sells stock to the public on a stock exchange. Those who purchase the stock have an ownership interest in the company. Because of the Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, a wealth of information is available for public companies. This same level of detail of information does not exist for private companies. Many resources will only include public companies.
- Is it a relatively large or well-known company?
Certain resources have size restrictions as to which companies are included. Thus, the larger the company, the more likely it is to appear. The more well-known the company, the easier it will be to find information on the company.
- Is it a subsidiary? If so, what is the name of the parent company?
In some cases, published information may be available only on the parent company.
- Have there been recent and/or noteworthy activities involving the company that would have been covered in newspaper, magazine or periodical articles?
If so, be sure to check business news sources. You'll get information on recent activities, and you may also find that the articles provide good background information on the company.
- What level of detail is needed?
Databases that provide excellent details on a company's finances may not be the quickest source for merely finding a phone number and address or even a brief profile.
Questions to be asked prior to beginning industry research:
- Is there more than one way to describe the industry?
Different resources may describe industries in different manners. While some resources may discuss an industry in broad terms, others may focus on more specific portions of that industry. For example, you may need to retrieve information on the retail industry, department stores, variety stores, or discount department stores depending upon the source used.
- What Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code(s) identify the industry?
SIC/NAICS Codes are used in many directories and industry resources to provide a more consistent manner of identifying industries.
- What level of detail is needed regarding the industry?
Do you need a brief overview or a more in-depth analysis of the industy?
Where Are You?
If you are at home or another off-campus location, be sure to connect to the library's network before searching a research database. This will allow you to access the resources that have been liscensed for use by those currently affilated with the University of Pittsburgh.
Questions? Ask Us