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The Spire Project: Industry Research
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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 discussion groups.

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 industry).


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 the industry that interests you.

to article list Online Industry Information
webpage Market Access Database (, 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.
webpage 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.
webpage Industry Canada, working with Statistics Canada, publishes a fine site devoted to Canadian industry statistics. These organizations are also responsible for Trade Data Online (, a free database presenting US & Canadian Trade broken down to industry (SEC & NAICS).


to article list 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. Links and forms are prepared for you in our article: Locating Books.

to article list 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), and 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.

to article list Further Statistical Resources:
webpage Association Statistics are usually tightly focused 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. Consider reading Discussion Groups.
webpage 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 ( 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.
webpage The Statistical Abstract of the US (, 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 Research).

to article list 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. We have the forms and leads prepared in our Government Resources article.

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 agencies.

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.


Industry research has also grown into a very active industry in its own right. There are many organizations that have built considerable expertise in analyzing and preparing research reports both as a retail and consultancy service.

to article list 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 work yourself.
webpage Find/SVP ( is a good example. Their reports are available through Dialog.
webpage For a fine list of such market research retailers, consider reading Sheila Webber's 1998 list: Commercial market research companies
webpage 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.
webpage Your national embassies and trade organizations also provide international industry and marketing reports. This is undertaken as paid consultancy work.

to article list 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.
webpage 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: Aluminium Industry Abstracts (Dialog). This is covered in a little more detail our articles on Finding Articles & Commercial Databases.
webpage There are also a collection 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 Promt: (EINS) 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 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 do 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 research goals.

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.

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