Company Research

This guide provides an overview of how to conduct detailed company research

Your Librarian

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Pamela Contakos


Thank you to Alice Kalinowski for her permission to adapt her Company Research @ Pitt guide.

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Getting Started

There are many resources available from Freel that will allow you to perform company research. Use the information presented on this page to find information on both public and private companies, company histories and profiles, company financials, and much more.

Search tips:

  • Significantly more information is available on public, U.S. based companies because they have to make information available to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Additionally, it is often difficult to find detailed information on subsidiaries, or companies owned by another. For example, Old Navy is a subsidiary of The Gap.
  • Beware that the name you know the company by might not be it's official name. For example, Hewlett-Packard is technically HP Inc.
  • Mergers and acquisitions can make it difficult to find historical information on previously existing entities.

Contact the Business Librarian with any questions or to set up an appointment.

Researching from Home?

Questions to Ask: Company Research

  • What is the complete, official name of the company? Are there possible variations in the name? Do you have the correct spelling?  Many companies are known by a popular name or a trade name which is different from their official name. Most resources will list companies only by their official name. Be aware of companies which are named after an individual. First names (e.g. Walt Disney Company) or initials (e.g. H. J. Heinz) may be part of the official name. Furthermore, a resource may either include or ignore first names and initials when entering and alphabetizing, and some resources are inconsistent. Also, initials can be alphabetized in different manners. Be prepared with spelling variations, even when you feel you are certain of the spelling.
  • Is it a publicly-held or privately-held company?  A publicly-held company is one that openly sells stock to the public on a stock exchange. Those who purchase the stock have an ownership interest in the company. Because of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, a wealth of information is available for public companies. This same level of detail of information does not exist for private companies. Many resources will only include public companies.   Is it a relatively large or well-known company?  Certain resources have size restrictions as to which companies are included. Thus, the larger the company, the more likely it is to appear. The more well-known the company, the easier it will be to find information on the company.
  • Is it a subsidiary? If so, what is the name of the parent company?  In some cases, published information may be available only on the parent company.  
  • Would a company want its competitors to know this information? Depending on the type of information you are looking for, keep in mind that the company may not make the information available due to fear of competition, and some answers may cross into the realm of proprietary information or trade secrets.
  • Have there been recent and/or noteworthy activities involving the company that would have been covered in newspaper, magazine or other periodical articles?  If so, be sure to check business news sources. You'll get information on recent activities, and you may also find that the articles provide good background information on the company.
  • What level of detail is needed?  Databases that provide excellent details on a company's finances may not be the quickest source for merely finding a phone number and address or even a brief profile.