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“Brandeis

Business & Economics

Research resources for Brandeis University

Tips for Doing Research on Business Strategy

Sources of Good Data (Prof. Benjamin Gomes-Casseres' Framework)


Company websites – general pages

  • These are often promotional tools for the company – they will give you the “company line” and usually do not allow for much critical analysis.

  • They will give you a basic introduction to the company, the lines of business, and a high‐level summary of their main strategic goals.

Company websites – Investor Relations

  • These pages are more concrete and unbiased, because investors expect good information.

  • They address investor concerns, which often have to do with strategy, operations, and performance.

  • There may be useful links to presentations made to the analyst community, and often there are direct links to SEC filings (see below).

SEC filings

  • These are key sources of concrete and balanced information about the company.

  • The 10K is the annual report (and incorporates the actual Annual Report); there are quarterly reports too, but usually annual data is enough for strategy research.

  • Pay particular attention to special proxy statements that report on major acquisitions, mergers, and other big company news.

  • Access SEC filings directly from the SEC or, often, through the investor relations pages of the company.

Press reports

  • Stories in the press can be a good source of data that goes deeper or is more analytical than the official documents.

  • You need to be careful about using authoritative sources, not just any report. Safe bets for good information: WSJ, NYT, Economist,  Bloomberg/Business Week, and so on. But look also in industry periodicals – e.g. Automotive News if you are studying an auto company.

  • The best way to reach these reports  is through the Brandeis Library  electronic databases listed under the news & Articles tab on this guide , especially Business Source Ultimate and ABI/Inform.

  • When you read press reports, look for data that analyzes your company critically, to balance out the “company line” information you get from the company itself.

Analyst reports

  • These too are good sources, but they don’t cover all companies, and often they are very aggregate and high level.

  • If they fit your topic, look for them in Mergent Online.

Market research and Industry reports

  • These can be very aggregate and may not tell you the detail you need. But, again, if your topic can use them, they are good sources.  Try Mintel  Oxygen for marketing reports and IBIS World for Industry reports. See the related tabs: Marketing and Industry  on this guide.

Harvard and other businessschool cases

  • May be good sources, but for our course, your research must go beyond them in time, focus, or depth. The Library does not have access to Harvard Business School Case Studies. Those can be purchased directly from them on on their Web site.

 

Sources of False Data


 

• Any student report you find. These are not authoritative, and you may be toying with plagarism.

• Any ready‐made SWOT or other “canned” strategy analysis – often wrong and you can do better.

• Company speeches and statements that are obviously advertisements and propaganda. Be critical.

• Stock recommendations. Yes, these may result from strategy and performance. But dig deeper.

• Interviews with company staff. May be useful, but don’t get snowed--especially by family.