Friday, April 11, 2008

Top Business Research Tips (2)

Yes, it's another Business Information workshop Top Tips. This one was a rerun of the UKeiG event held on 2nd April, 2008. The participant mix was half private, half public sector. At the end of the day they were asked to come with a list of top sites and search tips. Between them, those attending the workshop spent half the day trying out hundreds of web sites - some of them not even mentioned by me. This is their collective list of sites that they felt were worth considering as key resources. In some cases I have also included the comments from the people nominating the site. It is interesting that there are only two sources that appear in both lists, and one of them does not really count: it was my own site, from which some of the course notes were derived so you might consider the delegates to have been brainwashed!
  1. Silobreaker.com http://www.silobreaker.com/. One of the two sites that appears in both the April 2nd and this list. A relatively new service pulling together information from newspapers, journals, blogs, video and audio. In addition It offers geographical hotspots, trends and a network visualisation tool that was singled out by several workshop participants as being particularly useful.

  2. OFFSTATS http://www.offstats.auckland.ac.nz/ The new set of web pages for the University of Auckland Library providing information on Official Statistics on the Web and at a new address. An excellent starting point for official statistics by country and subject/industry. As well as the makeover, there have been many additions to the collection of resources.

  3. Research Wikis http://www.researchwikis.com/. This is a wiki covering market and industry data that is in the public domain; several workshop delegates commented that it looks promising. The content is variable in quality. Some reports are highly structured and detailed while others are just a "stub", many are US biased, and the sources of the data are not always cited. Nevertheless, the reports do give you an idea of the issues affecting the sector and the terminology that is used. One of the University based delegates thought that the site's recommended structure and headings for a report would be useful to students who are new to carrying out industry and market research.

  4. Bureau van Dijk's (BvD) "A Taste of Mint" http://mintportal.bvdep.com/ A free directory from BvD giving basic information on companies world-wide. Comment from one experienced researcher: "It found the company I have been looking for when every other directory has failed!"

  5. Google Finance http://www.google.co.uk/finance/, http://www.google.com/finance/ [This was not covered in the 2nd April workshop. Until now, it has been so awful and unreliable hat I have ignored it]. This is a possible competitor to Yahoo Finance. It has been steadily improving over the last 18 months since its initial launch but still does not quite have the authoritative "feel" of Yahoo Finance. Also it does not appear to have the individual stock exchange coverage of Yahoo. It does, though, beat Yahoo when it comes to the share price graph and historical downloads options. The share price graphs are 'annotated' with labels at the appropriate time on the graph and these link to news articles that are listed to the right of the graph. Yahoo Finance's downloadable historical share price data in figures goes back 5 years: Google's goes back to 1996.

  6. Google News. For the UK go to http://news.google.co.uk/ but there are a plethora of country versions. Good coverage of the last 30 days of free world-wide, national, local and industry news resources. One workshop participant said that Google News found a breaking story that the industry press and her subscription services had not yet picked up.

  7. The Wayback Machine - The Internet Archive http://www.archive.org/. The Wayback Machine takes periodic snapshots of the Internet. Ideal for seeing how a company portrayed itself on the Internet in the past and for tracking down sites, pages or documents that have disappeared.

  8. Chipwrapper http://www.chipwrapper.co.uk/ a Custom Google Search Engine that searches across the UK’s major national newspapers: The Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Sun, The People, News of the World, The Scotsman, Daily Star, The Telegraph and The Times. It also searches the BBC News web site, ITN and Sky. There is a review of Chipwrapper on my blog at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2007/12/29/chipwrapper-search-uk-newspapers/

  9. UK National Statistics http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ We will not go into the confusion users suffered when UK government official statistics web sites were re-organised on 1st April 2008 [No, it was not an April Fool's]. Work your way through the new menus and you will eventually end up on the on the old statistics.gov.uk pages. Even without the frequent design changes, the site can be difficult to navigate. Nevertheless, there is an incredible amount of good quality data here. For the web based 'stuff' and formatted documents (PDF. DOC, XLS, PPT) it is often easier to go to the Google Advanced Search page, type in your terms in the search box at the top of the page and in the 'Search within a site or domain' box type in statistics.gov.uk . If you want to look for specific file formats, select the file extension from the drop down menu under 'File type'. The 'Time Series' data have to be search from within the statistics.gov.uk site itself.

  10. Companies House http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/. The UK official companies registry. This is the closest you can get to the original company documents that a registered company has to file. Some information is provided free of charge (Use the Webcheck service). Documents are charged for on a pay as you go basis.

  11. RBA Sources of Business Information http://www.rba.co.uk/sources/. Selected sources of business information organised by type e.g. statistics, share prices, company registers.

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