When searching for business information in secondary sources, it is often good to start by thinking about who else might have a reason to collect the same type of information you are seeking. Most business information comes from three types of sources:
Various branches of government provide a wide range of data and facts essential for business operations and analyses. These include, among many other things, patents, tax laws, Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings for publicly traded companies, economic census data on businesses, population census data on markets, and household spending data.
Almost all companies have websites as well as media or public relations personnel who disseminate information about the companies and their products--and sometimes their competitors. Just remember that companies can be selective about what they choose to share and how they position the information they do release to the public.
The third group consists of businesses who have vested interests in gathering and publishing information about industries, companies, and products.These generally fall into two major subgroups.
1) Financial services organizations that analyze markets and help educate investors about business sectors, industries, management, trends, and executive leadership (e.g., Standard & Poor's and Mergent).
2) Trade publications whose primary audiences are people who work in the various industries. Almost every industry has several publications that routinely publish articles about leading companies and products, emerging trends, marketing programs,and management personnel. (e.g., Beverage World and Nation's Restaurant News),
These groups, as well as a few similar resources designed specifically for academic audiences, strive for accuracy in their reports, but it is important to remember each publication's target audience and sources of income when utilizing the information.
The questions below can help you determine the value of various sources relative to your information needs for a particular project. Note that the categories overlap and are somewhat arbitrary. Plus some questions will be more important than others depending on the type of information you are considering. Evaluation is seldom as simple as deciding whether a source is “reliable” or “not reliable.” It’s also about ascertaining the degree to which a source is suitable for a given purpose.
RELEVANCE: Importance for Specific Project
AUTHORITY: Source of Information
ACCURACY: Reliability, Truthfulness, and Correctness of the Content
The above was adapted from "Evaluating Information -- Applying the CRAAP Test", Meriam Library, California State University, Chico. and "Evaluating Information Sources," the University of Louisville Libraries.
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