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BUS 320: Library Guide

Table of Contents


  1.   Introduction
  2.   Background information
  3.   Financial data
  4.   About IFRS
  5.   Common problems
  6.   Writing, citing, and plagiarism
  7.   Getting help


1.  Introduction

This course guide has been designed as a starting point for the research you will need to do to complete your Business 320 research assignment.  

The range of potential resources for your assignment is quite broad, so the list of potential resources is too large for one guide.  Start with the tools/tips listed here, but remember to ask for help if you have trouble finding what you need.

 2.  Background information

One part of your assignment involves researching the company and its industry so that you have an idea of the environment in which the company operates. The following are just a few of the resources that may assist you.

a. Start with the company site for items such as company press releases and financial statements. Other sites that you could try for press releases are PRNewsWire, Marketwired and Canada NewsWire. Remember that you are only getting the company's point of view from such publications. You will also need to look for independent news and analysis from some of the sources below.

b. For both press releases and more independent articles, try the indexes listed below.

  • Canadian Newsstand
    Fulltext articles and transcripts from many Canadian newspapers and news shows from the late 1980s up to a day or two ago.
  • Business Source Complete
    Canadian and US articles in academic and popular publications. Try searching for your company in the Company Name field. Also click on Company Profiles (click on More at the top of the screen, then on Company Profiles) to see if there is a MarketLine profile of your company.
  • PressDisplay
    Recent issues of newspapers from around the world, including the Wall Street Journal Asia and the Wall Street Journal Europe
  • Wall Street Journal via Factiva
    Try a search for ( company name and rst=sfwsj ) to find articles in all versions of the WSJ on your target company.

c. For additional company-level information check out the following guides: 

d. To find a profile of the industry, start with the suggestions in the Library guide to Industry Surveys, especially the search tips in section 2.d.

KEY SOURCE: NetAdvantage: Standard & Poor's industry surveys and more
50+ North American industry surveys and 10+ global surveys, each of which covers industry trends, key companies, and guidance on how to analyze a company in that industry


 3.  Financial data

As I mentioned above, the first source for financial data on a company is the company's web site. Look for a link to "Investors" or "About the Company" for online versions of their annual and quarterly reports.

KEY SOURCE: The SFU Library database most likely to help with the "financial data" part of this assignment is MINT Global. MINT also provides company and industry analysis from MarketLine and GlobalData.

For further resources, try the following SFU Library guides:

  • Ratio Analysis
    • A key source from the Ratio Analysis guide is ThomsonONE Investment Banking, but note that only 5 SFU people can be in T1-IB at a time. Try searching for your company (ticker - top left), then choose the Company View (near the upper left corner), then Price & Fundamentals --> Comparables.
    • Also, for those who have chosen a Canadian company to analyze, try Infomart - our database focused solely on Canadian companies. Use the search options on the left side of the screen within Infomart to get to the Corporate Surveys, Corporate Analyzer, Investor Reports, and more.
  • Annual reports
  • Company Information
    • A few key sources on the Company Information guide that will help you identify competitors/comparable companies: Hoovers, Marketline, and GlobalData. (The last two are in MINT Global as well.) Start with those ones, but explore some of the other sources in the Company Information guide as well.

Also see our list of databases that contain financial data.


 4.  About IFRS


5. Common problems

Problems sometimes encountered when researching this assignment include:

a. Not being able to find an industry average -- just the financials/ratios of top companies in the industry. 

Most sources don't give pre-calculated averages, just ratios and data for some of the top companies in an industry.  Even if you do find industry averages, you should always question their applicability to your case -- does your company really fit with the industry being averaged? In my experience, very few (if any) such industry averages will fit the needs of the BUS 320 assignment.

b.  Not being able to find any comparable companies.

If you focus too much on identifying only those companies that are perfectly comparable to your target (same geography, size, product lines, etc.), you may not find any at all.  Remember that this is an accounting/investing assignment, not a marketing one: You need to find comparable companies, not necessarily direct competitors.

c.  Not being able to find a source that lists your chosen company within a perfectly suitable industry.

For example, you can find Starbucks classed with everything from Specialty Retail to Hospitality, depending on the resource, and none of those industries is a perfect fit.  In such cases, you can usually still scan such reports to see what other companies are listed, then research each of them further to decide if they are a close enough match.  You would then need to gather the financials for the companies that seem the most comparable, calculate some ratios, and create your own industry benchmarks.

Making these decisions about which companies and ratios to focus on isn't simple, but the effort will result in a more accurate understanding of the relative health of your target company than you can get from outside reports.


6.  Writing, citing, and plagiarism

6.a. Writing your report

Research is only half the battle! You also need to communicate your findings in a clear, well-structured paper, Check the SFU Library guides to Business Writing and Writing for University for resources to help with paper structures, grammar, spelling, and more.

6.b. Citing your sources

You also need to correctly cite all of the books, journal articles, and sites that you used in your research.

APA Style:  APA style doesn't provide very detailed guidance on how to cite financial databases of the sort that you will likely be using. I'd suggest starting with the SFU Library guide to APA for Business Sources or the Citing Business Sources guide from McGill University.  Also try our more general guide: APA Style. Other useful guides include Citing Sources (Duke University Libraries) and the Diana Hacker site.

In some cases, you may have to resort to directly interpreting the instructions in the APA Manual (a copy is at the Ask Us Desk in the library) to try to apply them to the sources you've found.  Don't leave this to the last minute!   
Note also that some of our article indexes have information within their Help pages on how to cite articles found in databases using common formats such as APA, MLA, and Chicago, and that some of them will even allow you to save/email your citations in a specific format like APA (e.g., Business Source Complete has this feature).

6.c. Plagiarism

Learning how to properly credit others when you use their ideas is a difficult, but important part of research. Start with the SFU Library's interactive tutorial "Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism" to test yourself and to learn more about plagiarism. Also read the SFU Library Guide on Plagiarism for further discussion of this critical topic and for links to other plagiarism guides.


 7.  Getting help

a. You can get help from a reference librarian in person at our reference desks as well as via email, chat, and telephone. Try our Ask a Librarian services.

b.  You may also email me: Mark Bodnar (). Please try to include as much of the following information in your question as you can.  This will make it much easier for me to help you quickly.

  • What exactly you are after (saying that you need "everything about Microsoft" is far too broad - saying that you need to know where to find "comparable companies for Microsoft" is better);

  • Where you have looked so far (Have you tried the sources listed in the Ratio Analysis guide? What sources in the Company Information guide have you tried?);

  • and what search terms you used.