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Subject: Information Research FAQ v.4.6 (Part 4/6)
This article was archived around: 06 Apr 2002 06:54:11 GMT
Last-modified: Feb 2001
Copyright: (c) 2001 David Novak
Maintainer: David Novak <email@example.com>
Information Research FAQ (Part 4/6)
100 pages of search techniques, tactics and theory
by David Novak of the Spire Project (SpireProject.com)
Welcome. This FAQ addresses information literacy; the skills, tools and
theory of information research. Particular attention is paid to the role
of the internet as both a reservoir and gateway to information
The FAQ is written like a book, with a narrative and pictures. You have
found your way to part four, so do backtrack to the beginning. If you
are lost, this FAQ always resides as text at
http://spireproject.com/faq.txt and http://spireproject.co.uk/faq.txt
and with pictures at http://spireproject.com/faq.htm
This FAQ is an element of the Spire Project, the primary free reference
for information research and an important resource for search
assistance. Do visit the assisting website http://spireproject.com and
our All-in-one search page http://spireproject.com/spir.htm
*** The Spire Project also delivers a 3 hour public seminar
*** Beyond Boolean: exceptional internet research. This is a
*** fast paced demonstration supported with webbing, reaching
*** the ground covered on our website and FAQs. Please visit
*** http://SpireProject.com/seminar.htm for synopsis and
*** Register you interest and we will try to come to your city.
David Novak - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Spire Project : SpireProject.com and SpireProject.co.uk
NOTE FOR RETURN READERS: previously, we prepared this section by
converting work originally prepared in html. This became unproductive so
we have limited the internet links in this FAQ and direct you to the
more lengthy articles prepared in html. All the required links and
search tool forms reside in other parts of the Spire Project, like the
websites and free shareware
Information by Field
links and more at http://spireproject.com/country.htm
Certain questions require country specific data. The internet is a fine
source for this kind of information, dominated by data from large
international organizations (the UN, World Bank and WHO) and government
departments (CIA, UK Foreign Consular Office, Health Canada, Australian
Department of Foreign Affairs). This works in our favour: such
information attains a higher standard of quality than might otherwise be
expected on the internet. The down side: current information is
difficult to locate. Further commercial compilations exist with
particular strengths in economic analysis.
The Spire Project maintains a very fine html article on country
profiles, in many ways a flagship for our approach to assisted research.
All the links are on this article, so we will merely describe available
resources here. Start at http://spireproject.com/country.htm
As a fine example of liberating information from previously limited
circulation, country-specific data has flowed from many a government and
quasi-government institution. So much information, of such high quality,
has become available that several commercial interests have abandoned
the field altogether.
* International Travel Advisory Reports from USA, Canada, Australia and
the UK cover details of importance to travelers like health care, crime,
current security issues. These travel advisories only mildly overlap so
try to read each one and take note of the preparation date.
* Country Health Reports are released online from the CDC, Health
Canada, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health
* General and Demographic Country Profiles originate from the CIA, [US]
Library of Congress, US Department of State, UNICEF, US Census Bureau,
World Bank and the UN Statistical Division.
* Social profiles and detailed social incident reporting originates from
Amnesty International , the Red Cross, US Committee for Refugees, the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), US Department of
State, Refugees.org cover Human Rights, Refugees and Armed Conflict in
* Economic Country Profiles are released by the governments of New
Zealand, Australia, United States, The OECD and the World Bank. More
market related profiles also exist from the EU, the US and the World
Trade Organization (WTO).
What this means:
The list of publishers above is literally a Who's Who of international
diplomacy and observation. Embedded within this field is also a story of
the liberation of information previously published in different and
predominantly closed systems. As each individual publication emerges
online, it adds to the wealth of information from other sources. Taken
collectively, we have a powerful trend giving rise to very high quality
information - a trend not unique to country profiles. In time we will
see this trend transform many information fields.
For years I was aware of a small binder by the front desk of the US
consulate help desk. The binder contained the latest bulletins and
alerts thought relevant to overseas travelers. Today, you are far more
likely to see this electronically as the US International Travel
Advisory Reports, delivered electronically at
Almost all of the electronic resources, with the notable exception of
the Country Indicators for Foreign Policy (CIFP) by the Canadian
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Norman
Paterson School of International Affairs, all these electronic resources
were previously published in paper. So the above list is really a list
of pre-existing publications now released on the internet. This is both
delightful, since we now have rapid access to very fine publications,
and delightful, since we can look forward to a future with country
profiles specifically designed for the web.
The library resources, like the "Europa World Year Book" (now in its
37th edition) and the "Compendium of Social Statistics and Indicators"
by the United Nations, publish data very similar to other publications
currently online. The notable exceptions are the publications of the Far
Eastern Economic Review and the Economist. These two financial papers
publish economic profiles both in print, and through their periodical.
This kind of data is a little higher quality than that found online, and
does not suffer the time-lag which is the one accusation we can level
against government information.
The commercial country profiles includes PERC (Political and Economic
Risk Consultancy), the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Bank of
America World Information Services, and then a number of
quasi-government or government publications for sale from Australian
Dept of Foreign Affairs, US Embassies and the OECD. Additional
publications exist and fall into one of these two categories.
The initial alternative information includes reading regional papers and
periodicals or reading and searching current news. For more depth, there
are international policy journals and scholarly journals with expert
commentary under peer review, or for simple questions, the Ambassador,
Consulate and Representatives both of your country and the target
country can help you answer specific questions.
Country Profiles makes for a very good microcosm of information
organization in action. Let us focus on how available country profiles
have changed over the last few years. We have a few commercial
publications, being offset by a range of free publications emerging from
government and quasi-government sources, and encroached by other
information resources of related information.
Once you have decided to reach for trade statistics, reach for the best.
All the general statistics and trade links are of limited relevance
compared to knowing the volume of tuna exported to Japan. We can try to
identify specific exporting firms, potential markets and existing trade
patterns. We list here statistics prepared by the national statistical
agencies, certain directories of possible interest, and a database of
Trade Data Online
Trade Data Online
(strategis.ic.gc.ca/sc_mrkti/tdst/engdoc/tr_homep.html) is a service by
Industry Canada, presenting trade information from Statistics Canada and
the US Bureau of the Census. This free database presents trade data for
both the US and Canada. Results either list imports and exports by
product (down to the level of "pulp of wood and the like", or
"footwear", or imports and exports by industry ("fruit farms" or
"contract logging industry").
In every way, this is a brilliant tool, except the depth of categories.
Results can be as specific as exports from British Columbia to
Afghanistan, divided by month in CA$ or US$. For more detail, we need to
reach for the paid services below.
Kompass directories list manufacturing firms by product. If you are
looking for the manufacturer of plastic disk slips - here is where you
go. They are a bit tricky to use, so read our simple guide first.
Kompass directories list manufacturing companies, which may suggest
Kompass is produced by Kompass [US] or Kompass International. Print
directories exist for most countries while Kompass databases cover
regions (i.e. Kompass Asia/Pacific). Large libraries will have some of
the print directories. Further descriptions can be found from Dialog,
Australian Exports by Austrade, gives the names of major firms divided
by product and service. Volume of trade is not provided, but this
directory, and directories like this, provide the names responsible for
the trade numbers you can determine using other resources (like export
statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics). The American
Export Register provides similar information.
US Trade Statistics
The US Customs Service collects import and export information, but the
information is developed by the US Census Bureau and Stat-USA (a
commercial wing of the Dept of Commerce). The Trade Data Online listed
above is a free version of this information but at a shallow level.
The National Trade Data Bank (NTDB) is a subscription service to US
import and export statistics offered through Stat-USA. Costs are
US$50/quarter or US$150/yr. This data is accessed through the Stat-USA
website. The database extends down to the level of "0105190020 Turkeys,
Live, Weighing Not Over 185 G Each (SIC0259)".
The subscription price also entitles you to a range of further economic
data, so you will want to investigate this a little further.
The US Census Burea, also sells trade data collected by the US Customs
Service. Start at USA Trade Statistics.
Canadian Trade Statistics
Canadian customs information is either available through The Trade Data
Online (a free but at a shallow trade database), or through the Canadian
International Merchandise Trade Database, also by Statistics Canada.
The Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database delivers specific
imports and exports from Canada - and provides you with a quote for the
cost. Works like a shopping trolley, and Statistics Canada accepts
payment by credit card.
All the Australian Trade Statistics are prepared by the Australian
Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Import and Export statistics are collected
by the customs authority, then released as a paid service directly from
the ABS prepared to the level of classification you need. Prices are
arranged by quote.
Due to privacy concerns you will not be able to pinpoint who is
exporting/importing but you will get totals, by state if you wish, for
commodities. This is a paid service. To start, contact the ABS by phone.
PIERS - Port traffic database.
PIERS (www.piers.com) is a database of port traffic. Based upon the port
documents (manifest & bill of lading), the complete database compiles
this information into specific categories, countries and the like. The
PIERS database covers imports and exports from the US, Mexico and a
collection of south and Latin American countries. Of particular
interest, summary data is also available through the website (sample). A
report detailing the top importers of olives from Italy costs US$87 when
I looked. Databases are organized as US or Mexico, Import or Export.
As each national statistical bureau records and monitors imports and
exports, read the National Statistical Agencies article for directions
to other country statistics. For those tempted to trawl for internet
resources, consider International Trade Web Resources by the Federation
of International Trade Associations (http://www.fita.org/webindex.html),
a site recommended by Argus.
Business Benchmarks are statistical descriptions of the running costs of
There are several ways to use benchmarks. Accountants use them
frequently, as do bankers and investment advisors, to judge the health
of a business. Certainly anyone buying a business will reach for
business benchmarks as one measurement of business health and value.
Equally as often, your accountant will do this work for you.
A standard business benchmark will describe various costs as a
percentage of total turnover. They may include figures like turnover per
staff, gross profit as a percentage of turnover, staffing costs as a
percentage of turnover and such. Some benchmarks give more. These are
the ones we are aware of.
* Small Business Advancement Electronic Resource
The SBAER (http://www.sbaer.uca.edu) publishes a collection of 33 small
business profiles, free on the net but unfortunately slightly dated now.
Start at http://www.sbaer.uca.edu/sbaer/publications/#industry
* US Industry and Trade Outlook 2000 (USA)
US Industry and Trade Outlook 2000 is an NTIS publication compiled by
industry analysts from Dept of Commerce. Their blurb describes a 650
page volume, reviewing most important sectors of the US economy. If your
library does not have a copy, the book is inexpensive at about US$70.
See their webpage description
* Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (Australia)
The ABS publishes business benchmarks in their industry analyses. If the
ABS has undertaken surveys, and you search their online catalogue to
determine this, then they will have compiled information that can be
used as business benchmarks. You may have to calculate the percentages
yourself, the ABS tends to have older data than other sources, and focus
more on industry. The ABS collects their data from surveys sent to
businesses. Start with the current ABS Catalogue of Publications.
Other benchmarks are published as books.
* The [Australian] Bureau of Industry Economics publishes a series of
studies on various Australian infrastructure industries. Each study
compares between states and against best work practice, including costs,
services and operating efficiency. All have the titles "International
Performance Indicators ..." and you can get a list by entering this in
the AGIP database of Australian Government Publications.
* The Locating Books article will help you find alternative books.
Commercial Benchmark Compilations
* FMRC Benchmarking Team (Australia)
The FMRC Business Benchmarks (www.benchmarking.au.com ) are Australian
business benchmarks, recording the expected costs as a percentage and
certain business ratios for a range of mostly small business industries.
I have not had time to review their new website but previously they came
in two formats... a single sheet and a small pamphlet, which is little
more than the single sheet with an explanation attached. Accountants use
benchmarks frequently, and this may well be the easiest place to go to
get them. The State Library in Western Australia has an aging collection
in a binder held behind the business help desk and The Small Business
Development Corporation's Free Advisory service in WA incorporate this
information into their advice. You could also purchase these directly
from the SBDC (formerly $250 for hard or softcopy for complete
information or about A$40 each.)
Be careful of their age. Each industry is only analyzed every few years,
and the libraries may not have the most recent version. Further, these
do require some understanding of business ratios.
* Westralian Business Ratios (Western Australia)
John Watson, from the Economics Department of the University of Western
Australia, has created a very professional set of business benchmarks on
Western Australian businesses. Unlike most business benchmarks, these
are annual, present quartile information and describe the statistics in
a most professional manner (including sample size !). You may need the
help of your accountant to get a copy.
We have listed just a few benchmarks here but information about
benchmarks is so poorly distributed, and we get asked so frequently, we
thought it worthwhile publishing this article anyway. If you know of
further benchmarks, do inform us.
One further opportunity is Purposeful Benchmarking. Ideally you arrange
an amicable invitation to peruse the best practice of, not your
competitor but a business unit which does similar functions in a
different industry. Thus, compare Airplane Turnaround times with an
racecar pit crew.
The Benchmark Self-Help Manual is guide to the concept of creating
benchmarks. Best Practice manuals and journals also cover this activity.
links and more at http://spireproject.com/company.htm
Company information forms the backbone to the information industry.
There is real money here. Investors are eager, customers & suppliers are
eager, competitors are eager to find good information. As a result, a
wide collection of very client-centered research resources has grown up
to deliver to this market.
Your research may take you into competitive intelligence and private
investigation - talking to competitors, customers, suppliers, past
employees and more. Another direction leads to information specific to
an industry: perhaps locating export logs or chemical patents. For the
purpose of this article, let's restrict ourselves to public, general and
readily available resources: publications from the company itself,
government disclosure documents, directory information, business news
articles, compiled company profiles, and related profiles like credit
reports or investment profiles.
Let's start with the obvious. Companies publish information about
themselves - some of it quite useful & factual. Look for a company
* Use Altavista to find a specific commercial website. Specifically use
the url:name function (like url:nike).
* Alternatively, use Debriefing (http://www.debriefing.com), a
meta-search engine optimized for finding names and named websites.
* If you still have difficulties, consider a local or national search
Government Disclosure Documents
Governments require all companies to release some information - some of
this is made public. Much greater information is released from public
* EDGAR (http://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/srch-edgar), a database produced by
the (US) Securities and Exchange Commission, delivers all public US
company submissions as required by law. The information is factual and
numerical - and includes both current and past submissions. Access is
free on the net.
* SEDAR (www.sedar.com), produced for the Canadian Depository for
Securities, is the Canadian counterpart to the US EDGAR database. SEDAR
delivers the public securities filings and public/mutual fund profiles.
SEDAR also includes some press releases. The search is very
EDGAR (and presumably SEDAR) are also basic ingredients to other
commercial databases like EDGAR Plus on Dialog or company profiles like
Hoovers Company Profiles. EDGAR Plus and Disclosure (another database)
contain very similar data to the free EDGAR database but include better
fields and standardized financials.
Basic Directory Information
Address, contact numbers and basic size may be all you need initially.
Such information can be found through numerous book directories. Most
directories are created from questionnaires, so the information is
suggestive - not absolute.
Directories come in different forms; general information, businesses in
specific industries or regions, registers like American Export Register
& Australian Exports, and serialized directories like Kompass & Who's
Who (i.e. Who's Who of Business in Australia). The commercial databases
to these serials usually cover a far larger area that may be very
useful. Kompass comes in national directories; one of the databases
Every library will have numerous directory titles available, though not
always the most recent editions. Especially in recent years, a vast
collection of directories have emerged with titles like Lloyds Shipping
Register, Radio Airtime Sales, and National Directory of Multicultural
Research - clearly a great range exist.
Some of the more popular directories have previously become available as
commercial databases. A small collection of directories like Thomas
Register of American Manufacturing, American Export Register and
CompaniesOnline (Dun & Bradstreet with Lycos) are emerging free online.
The humble phone book is certainly available. Another option is to reach
for phone numbers on CD-ROM. Australian Businesses on CD, American
Business Information - A Business Directory (Dialog) and more.
Directories may also be used to determine what the companies produce and
sell. The Kompass Directories index manufacturers by product. Australian
Exports (by Austrade) lists exporters by product. Directories have other
innovative uses too.
Corporate structure can be found using, again, a collection of
directories: America's Corporate Families and International Affiliates,
Directory of Corporate Affiliations (Dialog), Who Owns Who (by Dun &
Company Annual Reports
Annual reports are brilliant at giving a concise review of a business or
government operation and they usually don't lie too directly (though
they do put quite a spin on the statistics from time to time).
Annual reports will be found in one of five sources:
* State Public Libraries,
* Stock Exchange Libraries,
* Direct from the Company,
* Purchased through Annual Report Providers,
* Annual reports may also be published on the company website. Wall
Street Journal and Public Register's Annual Report Service -PRARS are
reported as commercial annual reports providers.
The Simon Fraser University Library has compiled a fine resource for
company annual reports: Business - Annual Reports
News Coverage and Press Releases
Many newswires contain copious amounts of information about companies -
and describe products, mergers and fiascoes. Prominent newspapers
specialize in covering business. In active research, this means
searching the commercial databases of past & recent news. This is
described in more detail in our news article.
News is generated locally, then distributed globally through the
newswires. Associated Press, Reuters and the top of the line Bloomberg
Business Newsall deliver business news targeted to the investor.
Press releases are released through BusinessWire and PR Newswire and a
selection of national wire services. Current press releases are usually
free online but past press releases are again archived as commercial
databases. This information is also rather ubiquitously used in the
preparation of company profiles.
Prominent business investigation also occurs through specific
newspapers. The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal can be very
useful resources in this regard. Of course, these newspapers are also
available as searchable databases. Business Electronic Newspapers
many of the business-related electronic news sources available on the
Business & Trade Articles
Companies are also profiled in the trade periodicals. There are three
ways to approach this. Firstly, you can attempt a broad search for
articles about a company in a wide collection of commercial article
databases. Secondly, you can seek articles in specific, topical trade
publications by searching databases specific to the field the company
works in. Thirdly, you can use what is close at hand, perhaps access to
ABI/Inform or another popular business article database, and see what
These alternative approaches each have pros & cons. ABI/Inform has a
deep North American bias (as do many commercial databases) and indexes
many of the more trashy/newsy local business magazines. Tightly focused
databases may simply have nothing on the target company - or have only
technical matters. Certain databases will allow you to specify during
the search exactly what company you are interested in: you will read of
these in the database descriptions.
To find trade periodicals, consider searching on a broad business
database, then noting the titles that repeat themselves.
Commercial Company Profiles
A wide range of potted histories, financial histories and current
information is available. The market is not necessarily centered in the
US, but North American products are better promoted. This information
comes in the form of small reports about a given business, prepared with
investors in mind.
* Hoover's Online (www.hoovers.com)
* Standard & Poor
* Dun & Bradstreet
* Moody's - Moody's Corporate Profiles
* Disclosure (www.disclosure.com)
* Value Line Investment Survey
* Worldscope (www.worldscope.com), a global database.
For a fine, European dominated list of country profile retailers, read
Sheila Webber's article: Company Profiles and Financial Information
A holistic approach: the most powerful tools present a variety of
resources for your attention.
* Lexis-Nexis Company Library
* Dow Jones News/Retrieval Service
Investext (www.investext.com) - provides in-depth business research -
access to collections of investment research, market research, and trade
association research, authored by analysts at investment banks,
brokerages and related consulting firms. The work is also available
through EINS, Dialog and Datastar.
Company research need not stop here. There are many avenues of further
research: Directly ask the company for sales literature: catalogue,
price list, local sales agents, Monitor company employment
advertisements, Articles in the trade and specialized press, Company
registers: in addition to anonymous statistical compilations, the
national statistical bureau will also have a register of businesses - by
name - with address coded by industry code. This is used firstly with
site analysis, but may also be useful for geographical analysis of
businesses. Background information on company leaders: their history,
experience and age, Patent research. Industry level research - see
Industry Research, Large international firms may have books written
about them - consider a book search, Interview past employees of the
company, Interview their suppliers or customers, Local newspapers where
the firm is located.
The task of finding information about companies is really a task of
finding information thrown off in the process of running a business.
Some of it is mandated by government (Edgar & Sedar), some of it by
newspapers, some by the company itself (websites, price lists). In each
case, some organization has stepped forward to collect and organize the
information. Annual Reports on the web gave rise to web directories of
annual reports. Corporate ownership - the directory "Who Owns Who" by
Dun & Bradstreet.
links and more at http://spireproject.com/industry.htm
Industry research will encompass many of the research tools and vectors
described more fully in our other articles. Your research into the
information industry (as an example) will certainly include a book
search, an article search, perhaps some patent research, statistics and
What we have in this article are the resources specifically for industry
level research - and leads to further promising directions like patent
research, statistics and discussion groups.
With few exceptions, you will need to search for specific facets of an
industry when you continue your research beyond this article. You will
get no-where trying to search for "information industry" - but will find
very factual information about the proposed changes to intellectual
property of database contents (an issue critical to the information
The web is a fine example of this: with the exception of Industry Canada
& the US Census Bureau, I can think of no other sites devoted to
'industry'; few organizations package information this way.
There are numerous gems to be unearthed free from the internet. Industry
news flows through news sources like AnchorDesk & Clarinet. Discussion
groups may inform and dissect developments in industries with great
resource and collective skill. Associations may occasionally feel it is
in their interest to publish industry briefs & white papers describing
their position. Without exception, you will have better success
searching for specific facets of an industry which interest you.
Online Industry Information
Market Access Database (mkaccdb.eu.int), a project by the Commission of
the European Union, presents some sharp analysis about market access for
a collection of 30+ countries. Extends from overviews of barriers, to
specific barriers in specific industries. Query the database by country.
The US Census Bureau publishes Current Industrial Reports. Just a few
are online, and this is just one resource here, so it is better to
search their website or review their catalogue.
Industry Canada, working with Statistics Canada, publishes a fine site
devoted to Canadian industry statistics. These organizations are also
responsible for Trade Data Online
(strategis.ic.gc.ca/sc_mrkti/tdst/engdoc/tr_homep.html), a free database
presenting US & Canadian Trade broken down to industry (SEC & NAICS).
Government Publication Databases
One of the first tasks to undertake is a search of the government
publication databases. Governments spend an inordinate portion of their
time monitoring industries - and write exhaustively. This will be one of
your most promising sources of Industry data and description.
Publications undertaken at a national level should appear in their
respective government publication databases: AGIP, MOCAT & the
publication catalogue of the UK Stationery Office.
National Statistical Agency Data
A second invaluable resource will be the national statistical agencies:
the US Census Dept, Statistics Canada, the Australian Bureau of
Statistics (ABS), the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS). Some of
their data is published on the web and each have their publications
catalogue online. Links and forms are prepared for you in our article:
National Statistical Bureau.
Further Statistical Resources:
Association Statistics are usually tightly focussed on the industry
itself. A case in point, the Australian Booksellers Association prepares
an annual analysis of business benchmarks, and industry size, growth and
development. Such publications are usually inexpensive and timely. Start
by locating an association particular to the industry.
Benchmark Studies, undertaken by accountancy firms and associations
focus on the financial ratios involved in business. The FMRC Business
Benchmarks and the United States Trade and Industry Outlook
(www.ntis.gov/yellowbk/1nty752.htm) are examples. Both present
descriptions of business operating costs, risk and margins compiled by
comparing financial data from various companies within an industry. The
results are anonymous, but factual and again, relatively timely.
The Statistical Abstract of the US (www.census.gov/stat_abstract), free
online from the US Census Bureau, gives you another avenue for finding
industry related statistics. There are several statistical resource
directories in most libraries, like Statistical Sources (by Gale
Further Government Industry Studies
Governments do not always publish their work widely. Non-statistical
agencies create vast quantities of government studies on all manner of
industry, but this work is primarily undertaken as part of their
industry supervisory role. Of course, this information is available to
you if you can find it. If the information has arrived on the web, you
may find it with a web search limited to government webpages.
If your industry analysis is local, approach the appropriate state
government organizations. Here in Western Australia, for example, the
state tourism agency maintains a list of all planned large tourism
projects. This is a fine example of the potential value to be found
here. Of course, this list is not widely published - or known - but one
should not underestimate the industry information prepared by government
Further avenues could include researching changes to industry
regulation, perhaps with congressional discussion or legal commentary.
Such research may be internet based for the US (I am thinking of the
Library of Congress Thomas Database). Consider reading sections of The
Virtual Chase (http://www.virtualchase.com/coinfo/index.htm).
Industry research has also grown into a very active industry in its own
right. There are many organizations who have built considerable
expertise in analyzing and preparing research reports both as a retail
and consultancy service.
Market Research & Industry Research Reports
Many of the larger market research firms also prepare market/industry
reports for sale. These reports are only as good as their age, depth and
reputation, and may be prohibitively expensive. They are, however, also
very accessible ways to read an encapsulated concern of an industries
changes and movement - and may save you from undertaking some of the
* Find/SVP (www.findsvp.com) is a good example.
* Here in Australia, IBIS and Syntec Economic Services both specialize
in preparing industry research reports - often for government. Again,
some of this work becomes available to purchase.
For a fine list of such market research retailers, consider reading
Sheila Webber's 1998 list: Commercial market research companies
Your national embassies and trade organizations also provide
international industry and marketing reports. This is undertaken as paid
Business Magazines and Trade Periodicals
Industry analysts are not the only ones involved in research.
Considerable broad industry analysis occurs in the trade and business
press. The most effective tool here, of course, is the article search.
There are two ways to approach this. Firstly, if you can refine your
concept to a specific phrase which interests you, then try a broad
search of business & industry periodicals. Alternatively, you can select
a specific database particular to the industry you want to cover. For
example: Aluminum Industry Abstracts (Dialog). This is covered in a
little more detail our articles on Finding Articles & Commercial
There are also collections of databases focused on 'industry' in
general. Industry Trends and Analysis: (Dialog) a mixed
index/abstract/text for "broad coverage of industries, technologies, and
management topics", and Predicasts Prompt: a "multi-industry
bibliographic database, offering access to over 1500 trade journals,
newspapers and special reports in relation to over 60 industries".
Many of the resources used in company research will describe the
industry too. Annual Reports for industry giants will include
information useful for industry analysis. The same directories like
Kompass which can be used to identify the address of a company, can also
be used to identify the companies which are active in a particular
industry. Patents may be critical in certain industries. Thankfully, the
US & Canada have considerable patent data free online. Patent research
is covered separately in Searching Patents. Interview key analysts
within the industry. These are the people writing the articles, the
industry reports, the government analysts and, perhaps, critical
managers & past managers from the industry. Import & Export statistics
may help you understand and quantify the international nature of an
industry. This is described separately in our article: Imports &
Exports. Of particular interest will be the free internet access to US
and Canadian trade statistics by SIC & NAICS thanks to Industry Canada.
As with corporate research, there are a very many rewarding avenues to
search for industry information. The challenge will be in structuring
your approach in a way that both suits your budget and desired depth. If
we are successful, we aim to have compiled a collection of industry
specific data from a range of sources, including a range of bias and
background. A simple pitfall: collecting various resources which all
depend on SEC financial data. You are equally likely to collect
resources featuring data pulled primarily from the company's annual
report or website. In this field, numerous references does not
necessarily lend additional credence to information.
Industry Research could either be research into industry-groups (banking
or transport industries) or research into specific industries (wholesale
furniture or retail butchers). This is a good distinction to make as
very different resources are involved. Industry-group trends may be
found with national statistics, government trade reports and general
market reports. Researching specific industries may better be served
with association statistics, specific market reports, trade articles and
business benchmarks. Select only the resources you feel match your
Secondly, collecting industry research need not be constrained to your
national border. There are very good reasons to consider statistics
collected from foreign governments or associations. Industries do not
develop uniformly in different countries. Foreign industries may be
predictive of industry developments yet to flow through to your country,
or indicative of different standards and legislation.
There is considerable expertise in drawing conclusions from industry
data: a skill beyond the initial scope of our work here. This is often
the domain of experienced consultancy - though there is certainly no
miracle to it. May I recommend a book; The New Competitor Intelligence
by Leonard Fuld. Lastly, we have not yet described the categorization of
industries using standard SIC or NAICS coding. In simple terms, each
industry is divided into specific codes, similar to the international
patent classification or the Dewey decimal system. The two systems SIC
and NAICS are inter-related and will not cause undue difficulty. Trade
statistics, digital business directories, and national statistical
bureau industry data will all use the industry codes.
links and more at http://spireproject.com/people.htm
There are tools to assist you to either locate someone you know, or dig
up background information. The internet has email directories and phone
directories aplenty as well as tools to trace internet communication.
Beyond this, there are tools to find silent numbers, business and asset
ownership, newspaper articles and more. You will start with a name or
Finding an Email Address:
* The Yahoo People Search (people.yahoo.com) is an important and
flexible tool for finding email & address information.
* Switchboard (www.switchboard.com) also offers several people search
* You may need to search the people databases from several internet
websites to be successful. For further assistance, consider the FAQ: How
to find people's E-mail addresses
(http://www.cs.queensu.ca/FAQs/email/bigfinding.html) and the phone &
address references on Yahoo.
People who Publish Online
Has the person published anything on the internet? The simple way is to
search the internet for the full name of the individual in the hope they
included their email address or real name on the webpage. Use Altavista
and Debriefing for this task. For more depth, read the article:
Searching the Web. Altavista has a very large, fast search engine. Type
the name using quotes to keep the words together. Add in further
information if you know using url:edu or keywords (use the + sign).
Also, capitals matter with Altavista. Debriefing, is a meta-search
engine optimized for finding people & named websites.
Finger is a lesser known internet protocol which sometimes reveals
information about a person given an email address. It used to be more
common and may give name & perhaps if a person is currently logged in.
It is easy to make a finger request from a Unix command line (finger
email@host). Some web-browsers will allow you to enter a finger request
directly (as finger://username@host). Alternatively, use a finger
gateway like this one from MIT (http://www.mit.edu:8001/finger?).
Tracing Online Communication
Deja.com usenet archive (www.deja.com) maintains a very large database
of newsgroup discussion. The Deja.com's power search is a must-see and
will give you a brilliant author profile. Here is a quick search; the
power search has more flexible options.
Searching mailing list discussion is more difficult. If you know a forum
a person is active in, see our article: Discussion Groups.
Alternatively, search the web for the email address. Hopefully you will
catch list discussion picked up by zines or directly by search engines.
Use Altavista for this.
There are several tools available to you here: Printed Directories:
White pages - if you know the name but not the address or phone number.
Yellow pages & other business listings - if you know the business, but
not address or number. Sometimes libraries and post offices will have
the white pages to different states. A better alternative may be to
search the white pages through the internet. For a very complete list,
visit Telephone Directories on the Web (http://www.teldir.com).
Directory Assistance - if you know an approximate name/address
combination, but not number. Directory Assistance is a service provided
by your phone company.
Phone directory databases - usually prepared as a CD-ROM, listing all
the phone numbers in Australia. this is particularly good for a reverse
search: seeking the name and address from the phone number.
Biographical Directories and Databases
If the person is famous, newsworthy or historically important, this may
be a worthwhile option. Directories like the series of Who's Who
directories will list some basic biographical details, most likely
prepared by the person involved. Who's Who directories exist for many
categories and countries like Longman Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who or
Who's Who in European Business.
Alternatively, consider the collection of biographical directories and
databases like Wilson Biography Index (see SilverPlatter or
FirstSearch), Wilson Current Biography (SilverPlatter), Bowker
Biographical Directory or Biography Master Index. The Wilson Biography
Index, for example, cites a large number of periodicals & books which
There is also a simple biographical database online: Biography Online
(www.biography.com), with 15000+ biographical abstracts - but most are
really really short. Of course, for well-known people, consider an
Local newspapers are a brilliant resource for information about
individuals, and most anyone running a business will try to be featured
in their local newspapers. The key here is local newspapers, and
historical databases (not current news).
There are no shortages of electronic access to good news too. DataTimes
presents a single access point to many of the North American newspapers.
Global Textline includes access to a wide range of different countries.
With both these news archive databases, you must be careful to specify
exactly what you are looking for. You would be surprised how many David
Novak's there are in my state alone. Use the full text databases in
The asset search involves searching a selection of government databases
for home and business ownership. The presence of a mortgage on a house
is public knowledge (though the information is not particularly
current). National business ownership databases, like ASCOT in
Australia, will give you the ownership of businesses and association
management. For a small fee through the department of business
registration, or a collection of commercial retailers, you can search
the ASCOT database by name.
One elegant suggestion is to seek help from a professional information
broker from the area where a person lives. The mailing list InfoPro is a
particularly large collection of brokers who routinely distribute this
kind of information. Consider emailing a request for assistance to the
list manager James and ask your request be circulated to the mailing
Reverse Telephone Directories.
Previously these were primarily police resources, but today they have
become tools for telephone marketing. CD's are pressed with all the
phone numbers in Australia, or all the numbers in the US. The search
function lets you run this as a reverse directory just by searching for
the phone number. Look in the yellow pages, or perhaps ask a librarian
for leads to these resources.
Commercial Personal Information Profiles
There are commercial products supporting the needs of human resource
departments, legal research and the police. Information is collected and
distributed as like Credit Reports, or personal profiles. As an example,
running a level three Missing Links search on CDB (for about US$15.00)
will usually return a US silent phone number.
* CDB Infotek (www.cdb.com/public/) maintain a selection of commercial
databases of personal information.
Further firms have been mentioned as active in this industry, including
American Information Network (http://www.ameri.com), Know-X and IRB
There is a serious issue as to the morality of easy access to personal
information. There is an equally important moral value in empowerment:
what is publicly available to should be publicly known.
Beyond these resources we have to tools available to private
investigators: rummaging though garbage cans, following the suspect,
etc... There are also computer files and databases with better
controlled access: drivers databases, police arrest records, voters
registration, medical records, passport and immigration records, banking
records. Most of the latter resources will only be available to you with
the direct permission of the one involved. Further databases, like a
database of known pedophiles, while available, would only be useful if
you had previous suspicions.
links and more at http://spireproject.com/t_mark.htm
A patent protects your investment in an invention. Copyright covers your
effort in a literary or artistic work. Trademarks protect your
investment in identifying a product or service to the marketplace.
Consider the striped IBM logo and the slogan Coke is it. A trademark is
a word, phrase, symbol or combination identifying a product or service
in the marketplace. This covers logos, marketing slogans, brand and
trade names. In some circumstances, the trademark can cover colors or
smells. Registered trademarks are trademarks granted additional
legitimacy by the appropriate government agency. Common Law trademarks
('unregistered') are also protected, to a lesser degree. Both can be
used to stop others using identical or similar marketing slogans, logos,
brand and trade names.
This article delves into the task of trademark research, that is,
finding comparable trademarks. Nothing in here pertains to the legal
aspects of trademark protection or infringement.
Registered Trademark Databases
The first step in trademark research is to search the national
registered trademark databases. These databases are freely searchable
* IP Australia (www.ipaustralia.gov.au) has the very user-friendly
ATMOSS database online, and their more definitive (but nightmarish)
Trade Marks Mainframe Database.
* The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides US Trademarks
online. Read the description/disclaimers/options for the US Trademark
Database, or jump directly to the Boolean Search Page.
* The Canadian Intellectual Property Office CIPO (cipo.gc.ca) delivers
free online, the Canadian Trade-marks Database - all pending and
registered trade-marks in Canada. Canada also publishes some of the best
advice regarding trademarks.
* Further countries are preparing English access to registered
trademarks. Start with Rossco's WWW Corner which has a fine list of
Patent Offices (http://www.pcug.org.au/~rossco/poffices.htm).
IP Australia (www.ipaustralia.gov.au) is the government organization
responsible for Australian trademark concerns. Australia has about
800,000 registered trademarks, and access is freely available online
through either the simple graphical interface of ATMOSS (Australian
Trade Marks Online Search System), or through the slightly superior but
difficult and non-graphical Trade Marks Mainframe Database (and the
associated trademark viewer).
The ATMOSS database allows you to search using either the description of
the trademark, or the trade mark number. It is returns similar
trademarks, with trademark number, class, description, date, status, and
perhaps an image of the trademark.
The [Australian] Trade Marks Mainframe Database is technically superior
to ATMOSS as it is more current (about 3 days rather than about 2
weeks), has better field searching (by owners or phonetic) and includes
references to correspondence regarding trademark registration.
Unfortunately, the Trade Marks Mainframe Database is not graphical, and
is probably not worth your time in learning. I am led to believe the
superior field searching will gradually migrate to ATMOSS anyway. If you
do wish to persevere, there is a manual online.
Common Law Searching
In most countries, but not all, registration of a trademark is not
required to gain legal protection. Most trademarks are not registered,
and enjoy considerable 'common law' legal protection under trade
practices or fair dealing legislation. For this reason a trademark
search must reach beyond the national registered trademark database, to
search brand names, business names, and other sources of trademark
To quote the Trademark FAQ by the USPTO: "A common law search involves
searching records other than the federal register and pending
application records. It may involve checking phone directories, yellow
pages, industrial directories, state trademark registers, among others,
in an effort to determine if a particular mark is used by others when
they have not filed for a federal trademark registration."
Frequently Asked Questions About Trademarks (USPTO)
The premise of a search is to find possible sources of trademark
similarity. We search sites where trademarks appear.
Business names and trademarks are not the same, but are often used
interchangeably. A business name search may give you leads to possible
trademark similarities. Phone directories (white and yellow), and
national business name registers list business names.
The internet is a fine site to search, especially since the search
engines are prepared in a useful manner. I would search for word
fragment in AltaVista, Debriefing, and Deja.com's usenet archive. See
our articles: Searching the Web and Discussion Groups.
Of course, this does not account for similar pronunciation, or the
graphical elements of trademarks.
Trademarks appear in trade magazines, but not often in the database
formats, so this gives rise to the unenviable task of paging through
likely magazines for similar trademark.
One uncertain resources is the Lycos: Pictures and Sounds search
facility. By indexing the alt=" " text from html pages, Lycos compiles a
list of pictures on the web. A search for butterfly, for example,
locates 100+ pictures labeled 'butterfly'. This might work to your
benefit if the graphical element you are searching for is simple and
distinct. Altavista has a similar service.
Should you want to learn how trademarks are created, used and defended,
consider these fine resources:
* Trademark References by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office
(CIPO), including: What's in a Name? Using trade-marks as a business
tool, Glossary of Intellectual Property Terms, Trade-mark FAQ and Guide
to Trade-marks (start at
* All about Trademarks by Gregory H. Guillot at http://www.ggmark.com
(unusual clarity on trademark law) including: A Guide to Proper
Trademark Use, How are Marks Protected
* General Information Concerning Trademarks by the USPTO
(http://www.uspto.gov/web/menu/tm.html) including: Frequently Asked
Questions about Trademarks.
In the countries with internet access to the trademark database, the
libraries could be said to be redundant - except as a source for ample
and personal assistance with your search. In other countries these
libraries may be able to assist with searching.
IP Australia has a patent & trademark library in each state capital.
These libraries provide free access to the ATMOSS database but also
offers the much-needed assistance for the troublesome Trade Marks
Mainframe Database. The US has The Patent and Trademark Depository
Library Program (PTDL's). In Canada, consider visiting Intellectual
Property Links: Canadian by CIPO for possible sources of trademark
assistance. In the UK, we presume the Patents Information Network (PIN)
provides trademark assistance, through the is no freely searchable
database to UK trademarks.
Commercial Trademark Resources
One of the most invaluable resources in serious trademark research is
access to several of the very large commercial trademark databases.
Lexis-Nexis (www.lexis-nexis.com) retails several trademark related
The Dialog Corporation (www.dialog.com) retails a collection of
TRADEMARKSCAN databases to European countries, Canada, and US (federal &
MicroPatent (www.micropat.com) offers access to a proprietary trademark
database. More information coming.
In addition to the database retailers and producers, there is a lively
industry of trademark search assistance.
There are numerous commercial firms on the internet selling trademark
services; much of this is little more than an ad for trademark related
Watching services are another possibility: These are not expensive but
following the leads suggested will be. I can not yet advise you on a
reliable trademark researcher.
As a case in point, IP Australia provides a Business Names Applicant
Search Service. A$40 buys you a search of the Australian registered
trademark database by their trained staff. Contact IP Australia directly
for this (Tel: +61 1300 651010) - they accept credit cards & fax/postal
This document continues as Part 5/6
Copyright (c) 1998-2001 by David Novak, all rights reserved. This FAQ
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