CMNS 230 Cultural industries: Case study research

This guide is intended to help you with research for your CMNS 230 case study.

PPT slide deck (in class presentation by Sylvia Roberts, May 31, 2022)

If you do not find what you need, please Ask a Librarian or contact Sylvia Roberts, Liaison Librarian for Communication.

If you would like to consult someone about writing your case study, contact the Student Learning Commons.

Select your organization

Begin by selecting a Canadian cultural industry entity within one of the following categories:

  • Topic A: Media or cultural organization
  • Topic B: Regulatory/policy/funding organization
  • Topic C: Media/cultural advocacy organization

Make sure your choice of organization is adequately covered in the research literature so that you can effectively respond to the questions in the assignment.

TEST the viability of your choice by searching for the organization in the sources listed below.

What kind of organization is it?

You may start by knowing only the name of your organization. Knowing more about the nature of the organization will help you determine where to look for in-depth information.

For example, does your organization serve a regulatory function?   Or is it motivated by seeking profit?   Or advocating on behalf of a group of stakeholders?

Look at the organization's web site for a link labeled "About" or "Mandate". For-profit organizations may label these links "Company information", "Investor relations" or something similar.

Regulatory/policy and advocacy organizations will describe their mandate, including the jurisdiction and regulatory authority.

Non-profit organizations are usually incorporated under legislation which dictates their structure and reporting requirements, for example, in British Columbia, the Societies Act (SBC 2015). 

For-profit organizations can be either public or private companies.

Public companies invite investment by selling shares to the public via a stock exchange. Public companies must operate within strict rules and regulations set by the jurisdiction where their stock is traded, such as reporting and governance requirements.

Public companies are also required by securities regulatory agencies to publish and distribute certain types of documents to investors, such as annual and quarterly financial statements. These documents are usually found on the corporation's web site or on the web site for the regulatory agency. 

Sometimes a company can be a subsidiary of a larger company. This means that information about the company may be included within the parent corporation's documents.

Private companies are held privately, by one or more parties, and do not trade on the open market. These companies are not required to publish public financial statements. This can make researching a private company more challenging.

There are far more private companies than public companies: about 98% of all companies are private. Search the company's web site to see if you can find if it's traded on a stock exchange or links to annual and financial reports for the company. If it's a private company, you may be able to find information in news or business sources.

Annual and financial reports

Annual reports provide a snapshot of the year's activities of the organization, including the mandate, major initiatives, future plans, finances, etc. You can compare reports published over several years to evaluate trends in finances and activities.

Recent annual reports are often available on the organization's web site. The organization's web site contains additional useful information that can be found by looking at the "About Us" link and for press/media releases. 

Regulatory / policy / funding agencies usually share annual reports, planning documents and other reports of activities on their web sites. Financial information may be included in documents for the government agency to which they report. You may also find reference to financial data in news or trade publications.

Not-for-profit organizations generally publish annual reports of their activities and finances. You might find these on the organization's web site. Alternatively, you might access physical copies at the business office of the organization or in the municipal public libraries where they are located.

If a not-for-profit organization is Canadian and has charitable status (meaning you can get a tax deduction for donations to them), you may be able to find useful operational and financial information in the Revenue Canada List of Charities. Search for your organization by name to find these annual forms.

Media / cultural advocacy organizations do not usually have charitable status. Usually the page that talks about how to support the organization's work will indicate whether donations can be tax deductions.

For-profit corporations that trade on Canadian stock exchanges must file annual and financial reports with the Canadian Depository for Securities. You can find these by searching company documents in SEDAR, a database of filings that includes annual reports, financial statements and press release. Search by company name.

Companies that trade on American stock exchanges deposit their reports with Securities and Exchange Commission.  These can be found by searching the company filings the EDGAR database.

For-profit, publicly-traded corporations usually include annual and financial reports on their own web site, under a link labeled "Investor relations".   Public, for-profit corporations also publish quarterly financial reports and information distributed to shareholders in advance of the annual general meeting, such as the names and biographies of people standing for election to the board of directors. 

If your company is a subsidiary of another company, you may have to go to the annual report for the parent company to find information. For Canadian media corporations, this simplified ownership index produced by the CRTC may help to identify parents companies.

More detail can be found on the Company information research guide.

For profit, private corporations are NOT required to publish annual reports.


Organization's web sites often contain information about their origins and history. Look for links labeled "About Us", "Reports", "Corporate Info", etc.

Your organization's history and role in Canadian cultural industries may be discussed in detail in books in the SFU Library collection. These books may focus on your organization or may deal with more general topics, such as a specific cultural industry or mass media in Canada.

To find books and reports that have a major focus on your organization, browse by subject using the full formal name of your company.

 If you use the author browse for the organization's name, you may find annual reports and other documents issued by your organization.

Business press

While organizational web sites and reports can be a rich source of information, you will want to balance the organization's perspective with that provided by others with an interest in the cultural industries, whether as consumers, investors, competitors, suppliers.

A wide range of perspectives can be found in the business press, providing a valuable source of information about players in the Canadian cultural industries. Business journalism tracks, records and interprets business and industry activities. This can include information about your organization's activities and accomplishments, major initiatives, profiles of key individuals associated with your organization, analysis of their performance, etc.

As well as publications devoted to business news and analysis (like the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and Canadian Business), most newspapers and broadcast media feature segments devoted to business news.

Trade publications

Trade publications, also called trade journals, trade magazines or professional magazines, are like news magazines directed at readers with an interest in a specific trade or industry. As well as articles discussing issues of interest to this specialized audience, trade magazines contain advertising, announcements and job ads targeted for this audience. Trade journals may be published by professional associations or by commercial publishers.

Trade publications are included in both the business and the sector specific databases (see below). You can limit your database search results by publication type to see only these articles.

Examples of current trade magazines (with links to their web site) aimed at participants in the Canadian cultural industries include:

Trade publications include articles that discuss developments related to that field, both at the industry level and about specific companies. You may also find some of these discussions in more general business and news magazines and newspapers. Surveying these over time will contribute to your understanding of the industry. 

Use the article indexes below to find articles in trade publications.

Business indexes

Use the following indexes to find articles in business news and trade publications: 

  • Communication & Mass Media Complete indexes significant trade publications for related industries, such as Broadcasting & Cable (television) and MediaWeek (advertising and communication). You can limit your search results to Trade Publications (select under Source Type on the main screen) or use the Source limiter (in the left sidebar) on your results to limit to magazines.  

** Note**: You may also find that some scholarly journals include a news section to highlight current events and issues in the cultural industries.

  • CBCA Complete Canadian newspapers, newswire stories, newsmagazines, as well as television and radio transcripts, and Canadian trade publications.
  • Business Source Complete content is predominantly American but does contain important trade publications and business magazines for the Canadian cultural industries, such as Billboard (music).
  • NexisUni
    Good coverage of trade publications, strongly American with good coverage of Canadian sources & topics.
  • Factiva
    International news and corporate information

Sector specific indexes

You will find trade publications for specific cultural industry sectors in the following sector specific indexes. You may also find academic articles that focus on research related to specific organizations or aspects of the industry.

Industry research

Your analysis of a specific organization should look at factors that affect all players in the same industry. Discussions of your cultural industry sector will help you to identify these factors, such as technological change, economic conditions and legislative changes, and will provide evidence to support your discussion.

Check out the Industry surveys  research guide for databases that provide reports on specific industry sectors.

Plunkett Research Online  contains annual almanacs that present trends, technologies, companies, analysis, and forecasts for a variety of industries, including:

To find books, articles and reports that focus on your  specific industry, start with a search for your industry and then use these relevant records to identify the correct subject heading for your industry.  For example, try searching the Library catalogue for "music industry" AND canada 

If you click on a promising title, you'll get a detailed record, showing the formal subject terminology describing your industry, for example:

Clicking on these subject links will take you to material that focuses on this topic.

Subject browsing finds materials available through the SFU Library with a major focus on your topic. Sample subject terms for cultural industries include:

Subject headings often have geographical subheadings, such as Canada or China, to help you find books that focus on a specific region.

Books that provide the global history of a specific media industry or the history of Canadian mass media or cultural industries may also be useful. Discussions of the global technological, economic or social environment will apply to Canadian industries as a whole as well as to individual organizations, though the specific response to threats or opportunities will differ.

Discussions of media industries in other countries may also apply to Canada. Use the table of contents or back-of-the-book index to identify specific pages that discuss Canada or, in the case of Canadian media history books, pages that discuss the development of your specific industry.

Industry associations

Industry associations (also known as trade associations) serve as advocates, educators and negotiators on behalf of their members, who are usually corporations or professionals working in a specific industry. Web sites for these associations can provide information about issues affecting the sector in which your organization operates.

Search the Associations Canada directory to identify industry or professional associations relating to your media industry.

Be sure to check social media (Facebook, Twitter) for these organizations as these are increasingly important sources of industry news.

For a more detailed list of sources, see the SFU Library guide to Industry surveys.

Statistical sources

    Statistical sources can help you demonstrate changes in economic or social factors related to your industry.   Reports and articles often include statistics to illustrate a phenomenon.

    Statistics Canada is the federal agency responsible for gathering and interpreting data relating to Canada's population, resources, economy, society and culture.'s  Statistics by Subject lets you browse statistics by topic categories.  You can also search for statistic information in The Daily, Stats Canada's newsletter, or via the web site search.

    NEW (Mar.17,2020):  Statistics Canada Culture Portal "key information on culture, arts, heritage and sport in Canada"

    Other countries also have centralized statistics agencies that may be helpful in finding reports on your industry, if its head office is located elsewhere. 

    You can find a list of statistical databases available at SFU, including some with good global coverage, such as:

    Statista integrates statistics from thousands of sources and provides simple exports of both data and charts in multiple formats. You can use limiters (document format, country) to scope your search results in meaninful ways. Each chart shows the source the statistical information so you can identify which agencies collect statistics that relate to your topic, for further exploration.


    Newspapers and news magazines contain articles directed at a general audience. Because these are focused on current events, rather than an in-depth treatment of a topic, news articles are best used to establish context and to give leads (such as names of significant organizations and people) for further research.

    Canadian sources

    • CBCA Complete Canadian newspapers, news magazines, trade publications, scholarly journals, with links to full text
    • Canadian Newsstream major Canadian daily newspapers and Western Canadian weeklies

    International coverage

    • Factiva global coverage of newspapers, newswires, industry publications, websites, and company reports
    • Academic Search Premier indexes both scholarly and popular articles
    • NexisUni international news coverage, strongly American with good coverage of Canadian sources & topics
    • PressReader current issues (1-3 months) of newspapers from around the world

    Citing sources in APA citation style

    This assignment requires that you use APA citation style for in-text citations and reference list. Use the APA citation guide (SFU Library) to find directions and examples for citing books, articles,

    To cite organizational publications, such as annual reports and press releases, use the specialized guide to Citing business sources, APA style.  Instead of a personal author, the organization who produced the document is the corporate author.

    Corporate authors are groups that serve as authors, such as corporations, associations and government agencies.

    If you are citing multiple documents by the same author, published in the same year, order them by date of publication in the reference list. 

    If there is only a publication year or the dates are the same, order them by title alphabetically. In both cases, assign a letter -- a, b, c, and so on to the citation, right after the year, inside the parentheses. This will allow you to specify which one you are citing in text.

    For example,

    Nintendo. (2019a). Annual report.

    Nintendo. (2019b). Press release.