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Industry Research

Guide to industry research

Industry Research

To understand a company and its competitors, you need to understand the industry of which it is a part, even if you are looking for information about a niche industry. 

Finding information about an industry includes the following steps:

  • Find an overview of the industry (market research, industry summaries)
  • Look for articles on trends and see if you can find forecasts
  • Gather statistics from government agencies and trade associations
  • Contact trade associations for additional information about an industry

Potential problems:

  • Each information tool uses its own industry groupings and covers different industries. Data from one source may not match another resource, both in terms of data and definition of an industry. 
  • Small industries are often reported as part of larger industries in government data and other information sources. Look for targeted market research to address these markets.
  • Quality, availability, and cost of association information or 'trade data' varies widely. Some of it is only available to members, and some can be accessed for free or located in a larger report somewhere.
  • Emerging industries can be difficult to research. Data may not be available and trends may not have been established yet. 

Professional associations can be very helpful in learning more about an industry or profession. Although full access is often reserved for paid members, associations provide information to the public in the form of summary reports and press releases. 

Examples of professional associations include: Advertising Professionals of Los Angeles, the American Society of Cinematographers, the American Medical Association and the California Solar Energy Industries Association to name just a few.

Follow the steps below to locate a professional association. 

 1.  Go to the Business Insights Global / Gale Business Insights database.

2.  Keyword search the industry name you would like to locate.

3.  When results appear, there should be an "Associations" link at the top of the results list.

4.  Try searching for a word that is found in the industry description or in the name of the association. Try different combinations of search terms and keywords to find the association you need (e.g. beverage, drink, coffee, wine). Results may include locations outside of the U.S.  

To locate professional associations and other types of organizations, you can also search the Gale Directory Library available through the USC Libraries E-Resources. This database contains the Encyclopedia of Associations (under "Organizations") as well as other reference works.

For a helpful list of trade publications, try searching webwire for your industry or browsing categories on isubscribe

The following databases are key resources for locating financial ratios for industries and companies:

Note: Industry financial ratios are comparative measures used to assess the financial health of an industry. Each ratio is defined as a mathematical statement between, for example net debt to EBITDA. Other ratios include:

  • EBIT/Revenue
  • EBITDA/Revenue
  • Sales/Total assets

Find key government data, including reports and statistics using the following resources:

These public sites can help you find professional conferences and conventions for a wide range of industries:

These websites have career and case prep content for the Management & Consulting Industry:

Books and Reference Sources

Some resources use the Standard Industry Classification (SIC) codes that were developed to track data on American industries, but many use the newer system (released in 1997) called NAICS: North American Industry Classification System, which includes the U.S., Canada and Mexico.