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Reference from Coast to Coast - Finding Industry Information

By Pam LaMarca, Published on September 15, 1999

Pam LaMarca is a research librarian in the Business Information Center of  William Blair & Company, a Chicago investment bank.  Previously, she was a reference librarian for five years in the Katten Muchin & Zavis Chicago library.

Finding Industry Information

Welcome to Reference From Coast to Coast: Sources and Strategies, a new monthly column written by the KMZ librarians. Headquartered in Chicago, Katten Muchin & Zavis has reference librarians in Washington DC, Chicago and Los Angeles. There are eight professional librarians who are assisted by a great support staff. The KMZ librarians field questions and participate in research in a myriad of subject areas. This column will highlight some of our favorite reference sources and research techniques in the hope that sharing information  will help you in your day to day jobs. We welcome all of your comments and questions, and would particularly like feedback on sources and strategies that YOU use for research on our column topics. 

Please send comments to the author, or reference@llrx.com

Corporate Finance is planning to take an Internet travel services company public and needs industry information for the Business section of an S-1 registration statement.Private Equity is contemplating an investment in a start-up company that distributes office products via the Web. Who are the major players in that market? What trends dominate?

One of my favorite starting places for such research is the Business & Industry Database (B&I), File 9 on DIALOG.  B&I’s quality, natural language indexing enables the online searcher to retrieve information in such fields as industry name, document type, product codes, concept terms, and more. You can pinpoint precisely the type of information you want without having to weed through dozens of irrelevant documents. 

The Industry Names field allows you to choose an industry at a broad or specific level.  For example, IN=Telecommunications will retrieve all telecom industry segments, such as telecom equipment, telecom services, or mobile communications. You can further narrow your search  by a particular product, such as voice messaging services, and search by product code.  Product codes and all other indexing terms are found in B&I‘s User’s Manual.   

An analyst wants some general information on the respiratory drug market.  B&I’s Document Type feature makes this type of broad request wonderfully straightforward.  Document Type identifies articles by the nature or structure of their content, such as industry overview, ranking, survey, or company overview.  After locating the product code for respiratory drugs, type dt=industry overview.  An industry overview usually has information such as market size, market share, forecasts, sales, demographics, etc.

Concept Terms are similar to PROMT’s event codes, but are much more specific.  The business searcher can use concept terms to target specific events or facts.  Have there been company layoffs in the trucking industry?  Combine your trucking industry search with the concept term ct=downsizing.  How will Medicare reforms affect healthcare services?   You can answer that question by searching within the Health Care Delivery industry and using ct=healthcare regulations.  Other concept terms help you identify litigation between companies, plant closings, bankruptcies, mergers & acquisitions, trade issues, imports, exports, or securities offerings, to name just a few.

Keep in mind that B&I is a starting place for industry research.   Some industries are covered more comprehensively than others and coverage in File 9 extends back only to 1994.  Also, other sources might be better for  a very broad industry overview, such as Standard & Poors Industry Surveys.  But for the online searcher looking for fast and relevant information, B&I is a great tool.

Send any comments and suggestions to reference@llrx.com