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GEB 3006 - Career Research & Planning: Research a Company

Public or Private

It is easier to find information about public companies (those that sell stock to shareholders) than about private companies (those that are privately owned by an individual or a group).  Public companies in the United States are required by law to file documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  These include the 10K (annual)and 10Q (quarterly) reports.  In addition, public companies issue an annual report to shareholders.

Information on private companies can be sparse.  Private companies are not required to file any financial data in the U.S., with the exception of registration data filed with the Secretary of State, in the state where they are registered.  Databases like Mergent Intellect and NetAdvantage (S&P) have some basic data on U.S.  private companies.  Often 'local press' have more stories on a locally based company than national newspapers (e.g. Orlando Sentinel versus Wall Street Journal).   

Sources of Company Information

To better understand what kind of information may (or may not) be available, consider the sources. Who, why, when, and how produced the information should play a role in evaluating reliability and validity of sources. Multiple free and subscription  resources are available:

  • What the company tells you:  company websites, promotional materials, catalogs, price lists, LinkedIn and other social media, and more
  • What the company keeps confidential: internal information, trade secrets, and more
  • What the company has to disclose to the government: 10Q*, 10K*, other SEC filings*, conference earning calls* economic census, state filings, (*Only public companies are required to disclose these information)
  • What others say about the company: news, blogs, LinkedIn and other social media, research articles, books, market research, analyst reports, government, industry and trade experts, and more

Best UCF Library Databases for Company Research

You can build a list of companies based on specific criteria such as industry, geographic location, number of employees, and annual revenue. Watch this "Build a File" video to learn how to compile a list of companies.