Skip to Main Content Custom Header
Western Washington University. Make waves.
Western Libraries

JOUR 330: Principles of PR: Company Research

Finding Company Reports in Business Source Complete

Video will open in new window. 

How to find company reports in Business Source Complete. Will open in new window.

Company Research: The Basics

Company Research Tips:

  • Publicly-traded companies will be easier to research than private companies.
  • You will use a mix of library resources (Mergent, Business Source Complete) and Web resources.
  • Company research invovles using both company and industry resources.
  • Some companies are easier to research than others. Companies and brands are merged and absorbed regularly, and this can make finding even recent information difficult.
  • Just because you want a certain piece of information doesn't mean it is available.
  • Industry information goes hand-in-hand with company information. See the Industry Research page for more details.
  • Sometimes you will have to make an educated guess.

Company Research: The First Step

Corporate Affilitations is a directory of companies, both public and private.

  • Click on the link below.
  • In the menu bar at the top of the page, select Features.
  • From Features, select advance search
  • In advance search, seelct Product/Brand Name  and/or Company from the drop-down menu titled Criterion
  • In the text box next to it, type in your brand.

This will show you where the brand falls in a corporate tree.

Company Information, History, and Analysis

In addition to the sources listed below, check company website. Most public companies post their annual reports and a company history on their pages. However, some will make it difficult to find. Look for a link titled "Investment information" or "Information for Investors.

Financials: Publicly-traded Companies

Financial information can include: annual revenue, net income, ratios, dividends per share and more.

Publicly-traded companies are required to file financial reports with the Securities & Exchange Commission several times a year. Use the source below to find current and historical financials and to help interpret the numbers. 

Helpful Resources:

Financials: Private Companies

Private companies are not required to file financial information and do not have to make this information available to the public, making it difficult to find in-depth and historical financial information and analysis. Mergent Online now has information on private companies.

Mouse over the name of the database for more information. 

Helpful Resources:

Company Web Sites & Annual Reports

Annual Reports

  • If a company is publicly-traded they have to file an annual report with the SEC. 2009 annual reports are filed with the SEC March 31.
  • An annual report often includes: company background, current issues they are facing, what went well, what went wrong, and financial information.
  • Read the president's letter--this is where he explains the company's current situation to the shareholders. Remember to read these with a skeptical eye--the president/CEO will put the most positive spin on everything.

Where are annual reports located?

  • Many companies will put their most recent annual report on their Web site.
  • Some will also put past annual reports, historical financial information, mission, values, etc. on their site.
  • Sometimes it is obvious where this information is, sometimes it isn't. Look for a link on the company's home page labeled, "Company information," "Investor Information," etc. However, how much is made available depends on the company. Some will put up more than others.

What else is on the company's Web site?

  • Mission, values, and vision
  • Possibly a recent strategic plan
  • Articles or press releases

Public Companies vs. Private Companies

  • If your company has a ticker symbol, it is publicly traded. Find the ticker in a simple Google or Wikipedia search--but don't rely on this information for your entire assignment
  • Public companies often have more available because they have to file an annual report with the SEC
  • Some private companies will put a lot of information on their Web site. Some won't. 

Can you trust information from the company?

  • Yes. But read it with a skeptical eye and back up any of their own information with other sources.