Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Industry Research

Step-by-step guide for conducting industry research with links to sources of information

Identify the Industry

Every company or business is part of an industry. Likewise, every product fits into an industry. Industries have been defined and codified by the U.S. federal government. Some industry information is organized by the industry code (a number) rather than the industry name. There are several ways to identify the industry and obtain the industry code.

Nexis Uni replaced Lexis Nexis Academic. If you are working with a real company or you know which real company will be a competitor, you can identify the industry using Nexis Uni.  Select the Business section and click Company Dossier.  Enter the company name in the name search box and click Search.  Record the Primary SIC code and Primary NAICS code that appear in the Industry Classification section.

North American Industry Classification System. (NAICS) Defines industries across North America (Canada, United States, and Mexico) and provides industry codes, since 1997. In the search box, enter the name of the industry or keywords to describe the business idea.  Review the definition to be sure this is the correct industry.  If a keyword search doesn't work, click the "2017 NAICS" icon, under Downloads/Reference Files/Tools on the left side of the display.  Open the industry sector that best encompasses your industry/business idea.  Read the description of the industry at the 2-digit level. This will tell you if you are "in the ball park."  If yes, then browse the industries listed, opening the ones that look promising.  You may need to look at several industry sectors to find the best match.  Computer hardware and software industries tend to be part of NAICS 51 Information or NAICS 54 Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services.  It is also possible that your business idea is involved in more than one industry.  For example, if you plan to produce a product from raw materials and then sell it on your Internet site you would be involved in Manufacturing and Retail Trade.  In this situation you will need information about both industries.

Standard Industrial Classification Manual.  (SIC) Predates NAICS.  Defines U.S. industries and provides industry codes.  Some resources still use the SIC code rather than the NAICS code, including Dun & Bradstreet's Key Business Ratios.  Enter the name of the industry in the keyword search box.  Review the definition to be sure this is the correct industry.

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us