Business: Reference Sources

Although general reference resources are useful in some cases, there are many research projects that require subject-matter specific information sources.

Read Ross, Celia (2013). Other handy business reference resources and tips. In C. Ross, Making Sense of Business Reference: A Guide for Librarians and Research Professionals. ALA Editions.

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Browse Sowards, Steven W. & Leonard, Elisabeth (Eds.) (2014). Guide to Reference in Business and Economics. ALA Editions. Available through IUPUI. Example the topics and sources of information.

The Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources is an excellent starting point. It contains great starting points for dozens of business topics. This e-book is available through the Gale Engage Learning Small Business Resource Center. There are two volumes to the 2014 encyclopedia.

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Browse a few of the following book previews focusing on reference materials in business. Go to
Wasserman, Paul, Thompson, Verne, Burton, Virgil (2014). Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources. Gale Cengage Learning. Available to IUPUI students.
Explore three different topics. Notice how each topic entry is organized and what topics are covered.

Explore BRASS's list of Outstanding Business Reference Sources for 2015.

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Go to Resource Shelf. This website provides up-to-date information on a wide range of business information sources. Browse a few of the recent entries.

Business Reference Starting Points

read ipadReference sources can be found in both open access and subscription-based environments.

Google and Reference Questions

Google is a good place to start seeking answers to reference questions. However, be sure to double-check the results and evaluate the quality of the source.

Use Google Images to identify unfamiliar currency. Drag an image of the currency into Google Images.

Or, you might have a logo from an advertising campaign. Drag it into Google Images and it may be able to identify the origin or the advertising campaign or the company associated with the logo.

Subscription-based Reference Databases

Begin your exploration of reference works at the reference databases. Many of the reference materials listed below can be accessed using the major databases.

The Oxford Reference Online database contains useful reference sources across disciplines.

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Go to Oxford Reference Online. Available through IUPUI.
1) Choose the Reference Type pull-down menu and explore the English and bilingual dictionaries available.
2) Use the Search bar to enter the word BUSINESS. You'll find 30 books associated with this discipline and entries in many more reference books.
3) Notice that some of the electronic references are available and others are restricted. Pick three unlocked or free resources to explore in-depth. Compare their contents and how they are organized.

Another useful tool is LexisNexis (Available through IUPUI). Their research guides provide resources associated with common business assignments. The "How to" section addresses some of the following topics:

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Go to LexisNexis. Available through IUPUI. Explore their video tutorials and How Tos to learn about how to address common questions.

Company and Industry Information

Some of the most common business reference questions are related to company information. Use the following databases to answer questions.

ProQuest provides easy to use tools for accessing company and business reports

Locating Key Numbers

Company Financial Information

Private Company Information

Scenario Stumper
I'm looking for a quick way to find quality profiles on companies.
Go to Hoover’s Company Profiles. This database contains information on more than 40,000 public and non-public companies and executives.
The Bottom Line... if you're looking for a quick way to locate key company information, this is the best place to start. ProQuest will provide the abstract, then you need to click on the Hoover's Company Records link for the details. The details include history, people, products, subsidiaries, competitors, and financials.

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Go to Hoover’s Company Profiles and search for a well-known company. ProQuest will provide the abstract, then you need to click on the Hoover's Company Records link for the details. List the company you searched and three interesting insights about the company you didn't already know.

Competition Information

For lots of ideas, go to the IUPUI LibGuides for Company Information and Industry Information.

Atlas and Maps

From identifying potential business sites to examining real estate options, atlas and maps used across business areas.


Almanacs can be useful in providing summary and statistical information.

Biographical Information

General biography resources can be very helpful, but be sure to seek out biographical materials within databases geared to your content area interest.

In the case of current business biographies, some of the most up-to-date information sources are profiles on individual company websites.

Dictionaries and other Word and Phrase Sources

Rather than general dictionaries, seek out discipline-specific dictionaries for specialized vocabulary.

Moss (2012, 12) notes that

“business vocabulary can at times be baffling to the uninitiated… not only librarians but also most businesspeople need to be familiar with terms outside their usual areas especially as functions become blurred and management terminology becomes more cross-disciplined.”

Many standard dictionaries don’t contain up-to-date terms and may lack trendy or technical jargon. Dictionaries can be found in each field within business such as accounting, finance, insurance, real estate, and others.

Business language is filled with acronyms and abbreviations. Seek out dictionaries such as Acronyms, Initialism & Abbreviations Dictionary (2010) edited by Bonk and Carlton and published by Gale Cengage.

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Browse the Dictionary of Marketing Communications by Norman A. Govoni from SAGE Knowledge available through IUPUI. You'll have only limited access, but you'll get the idea. Compare the use of an online subject-matter dictionary to a paper-based dictionary.


Directories are an important reference source in business. However for the latest information, an online directory may be the most useful.

According to Sowards and Leonard (2014),

“the ability to look up current contact information on the Web has eliminated the market for some directories, but a select groups of enhanced directories remains. These survivors include works in both print and online formats that dig deep into companies and organizations to offer extended lists of executives, members or officiers, others that gather together related listings for comparative purposes (for example, lists of all banks serving a particular city); and others that allow interactive searching. To some extent, these tools overlap with marketing databases.”

Directory Examples

Company and industry information is critical to business professionals. Much of this information is found in the form of directories.

Company and Industry Directories

Scenario Stumpers
I know that LEGO is a European company. I'd like to know more about the company and its financial situation. I'm interested in making an investment.
The Amadeus website provides information on European companies including LEGO.
The Bottom Line. It's important to go beyond basic reference sources and dig into the databases for specifics on the company.

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Go to ReferenceUSA. Think about how this tool might be used by business owners.


In the databases, browse by subject, general reference, and encyclopedias. In addition to encyclopedia, chronologies, and other closely associated reference types are included. Encyclopedia can quickly become dated, so look for the newest electronic versions.

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Browse the Encyclopedia of White-Collar and Corporate Crime, Second Edition by Lawrence M. Salinger from SAGE Knowledge through IUPUI. You'll have only limited access, but you'll get the idea. How does this book reflect the characteristics of an encyclopedia? In what situations would an encyclopedia this this work well in addressing a reference question?

Handbooks, Guides, and Manuals

Handbooks, guides, and manuals are all found in the humanities. Many handbooks are available as ebooks through IUPUI's collection. These can be useful in providing information not found in general Google searches.


ScienceDirect provides access to reference handbooks. Available through IUPUI.

Tax Law and Codes

An area somewhat unique to business are tax laws and codes.



Cassell, Kay Ann & Hiremath, Uma (2012). Reference and Information Services: An Introduction (3rd Edition). Available through IUPUI.

Moss, Rita W. & Ernsthausen, David G. (2012). Strauss’s handbook of Business Information: Guide for Librarians, Students, and Researchers. 3rd Edition. Libraries Unlimited. Google Preview Available: https://books.google.com/books?id=g7JoBgAAQBAJ

Reitz, Joan M. (2014). Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. Libraries Unlimited. Available: http://www.abc-clio.com/ODLIS/odlis_a.aspx.

Sowards, Steven W. & Leonard, Elisabeth (2014). Guide to Reference in Business and Economics. ALA Editions. Google Review Available:

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