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Company & Industry Research

Getting Started


This guide is meant to help you find information on public companies, major industries, economic and demographic variables -- and related news and literature.  This guide is not designed to be comprehensive.

While conducting your research, you may want to research:

  1. Company and its competitors.
  2. Industry in which a company operates.
  3. Demographic & economic factors that inform strategic planning.  

Research requires analysis and synthesis of information, and no one resource will likely provide sufficient information or data on any given topic. 

Your research may take you to the Harvard Business School library (Baker).  For information, visit:  The HBS librarians are very friendly and helpful!

For many of these databases, you will need your Harvard University ID and PIN.  For others, you may need to register to gain access.  If you have any trouble accessing a database, please contact the library.


Company Research

Public vs. Private Companies

Public companies sell shares to the public on a stock exchange.  In the US, they are required to file quarterly and annual financial documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission and make public their board of directors, the salaries they pay chief executives and the known risks of investing in their particular company.

Private companies are the opposite of public companies.  They do not sell shares to the public, although may have private investors.  They do not have to share their financial information, salaries, profits, losses, or any management issues with the public.  Because of these issues, researching private companies can be challenging.  You will have to find third party reports, news stories, and competitive intelligence research to get a full understanding of a private company.

Company Information

Company Websites

The first place to look is at the company’s website, but you know this!  Look for the company’s About, Contact, and Investor Relations pages, which will provide the company’s financials, archived quarterly investor calls, and quarterly and annual corporate reports, which are also filed with the SEC (known as EDGAR Filings).  See this example of an Investor Information page from Dunkin' Brands.

Company websites are also great places to find contact information, the company's mission and values, board of directors and corporate governance policies.  Public companies will usually have more information available than private companies.  

SEC Filings

Analysts often pay close attention to a company’s corporate reports, which are filed with the SEC.  The core filings of a US public company are the 10-K (annual report - 1 per year), 10-Q (quarterly reports - 3 per year), Proxy Statement or DEF 14A (annual meeting proxy - 1 per year), and 8-K (current reports - can be none or several throughout a year).  There can also be amendments made to each filing, so be sure to review any 10-K/A, 10-Q/A, etc.

The financial sections of these reports generally include a statistical summary of operations, financial statements for each line of business, legal proceedings, and a list of affiliated companies and subsidiaries. 

Supporting data in the other sections includes a list of principal stockholders, security holdings of management, and a list of directors with biographical and terms-of-office information.

For more information, see the HLS research guide on SEC Filings.

Analyst Reports

Finally, you may want to access equity analyst reports.  Analyst reports are third party reports, providing information on companies or industries with the goal of offering investment advice.  They are considered to be objective for general information, though some of the conclusions may be guided by investment banking conflicts.  

Bloomberg provides access to some equity reports.  A Bloomberg Terminal is available to HLS affiliates at the fourth-floor Reference Desk in Langdell.  For access to a greater selection of analyst reports, visit the Harvard Business School library, where you can access further proprietary databases, like Investext and S&P NetAdvantage.

Company Snapshots

In analyzing a public company's business strategy, you will want to consider how the company is structured and operated, how its resources are invested for producing goods and services, and how its operations are financed (i.e., what is its mix of debt and equity).

There are many databases to research the basics of a company and get a good overview.  Below are some good places to start:

Using Nexis Uni (formerly LexisNexis Academic) for Company Information

Bloomberg Terminal

A Bloomberg Terminal, providing hard financial data, real time news, and current daily stock information, is located near the Reference Desk on the 4th Floor of Langdell Hall. Please email Lisa Lilliott for further assistance. (Access is limited to the Harvard Law School community.)



Industry Research

Market & Industry Intelligence

These databases will give you good overviews of specific industries, including major trends, important companies, and representative economic postitions.  The descriptions below are from the databases' own websites.

Statistics & Data

Bloomberg Terminal

A Bloomberg Terminal, providing hard financial data, real time news, and current daily stock information, is located near the Reference Desk on the 4th Floor of Langdell Hall. Please email Lisa Lilliott for further assistance. (Access is limited to the Harvard Law School community.)



VC / PE / HF

Practice Guides

VC and PE Databases

Business Plans

Business Plans

According to Investopedia, a business plan is "a written document that describes in detail how a new business is going to achieve its goals. A business plan will lay out a written plan from a marketing, financial and operational viewpoint. Sometimes a business plan is prepared for an established business that is moving in a new direction."

Typical business plans include:

  • Type of business
  • Statement of purpose
  • Executive summary
  • Business/industry description
  • Market size or potential
  • Competition and competitors
  • Product and production
  • Management/personnel
  • Pro forma financial statements

Need more detail about business plans?  Entrepreneur's Small Business Encyclopedia has a nice, detailed review.


Resources for creating Business Plans

Demographic & Economics

Demographic & Economic Info

Companies use demographic and economic indicators to help inform strategic planning.

Country data:

U.S. demographic data:  

Find data and statistics by exploring various agency publications; some examples are:

In addition, explore various think tank publications; example:

Current Awareness


Articles & Research

Use these databases to get more in depth research and analysis of companies.  Search academic journals, trade press, and industry specific newsletters and publications.  

Just for Fun

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