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Business Research Guide: Free Internet Sources: Planning Your Research

Designed to help you begin your research quickly and search more effectively.

Research 101

As you begin your research, ask yourself:

  • What do you already know?
  • What you NEED to know?
  • Do you need to identify companies?
  • Do you need to understand an industry?
  • Do you need background on a product or service? 

Think about "who cares" enough to compile, analyze and publish data on a particular business topic. The following often offer open source information:

  • Government agencies at the Federal, State and Local levels
  • Trade associations
  • Consulting firms
  • Locally based media

About Free Websites

Searching the internet is quick and easy, and a great source for relevant, quality information. Caveat emptor: evaluate the resources you use.

Here are some guidelines to assess Internet resources, such as personal Web pages, blogs and Wikipedia:

  • Currency - Is the information current? Is it updated regularly?
  • Reliability - Is the source reputable? Is it accurate?
  • Authority - Who created the information? Why?
  • Purpose/Point of View - Is there a balance of perspectives? Is the information biased?

Please see this additional information about the CRAP test.

Primary Research (Your Personal Network)

Reach out to industry experts: journalists that cover your industry, financial analysts, industry associations and academics. If you don’t know insiders in your network, identify them through publications, industry associations, and trade meetings.

If you need to take it a step further, ask an information professional, an expert in the field or even brainstorm with a colleague. Find out if your employer has a corporate library staff, or look to local library resources, both public and academic.

The World of Business Information