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Business & Economics: Getting your Research Started

Important Terms

NAICS Code - The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) uses six-digit codes to identify an industry. The NAICS system is gradually replacing the SIC system. Many resources use these codes to identify a company’s activities, index companies by activity, and to define industry data and information. For more information on the history and structure of the NAICS, as well as to search for codes, visit the NAICS Association web site by following the Industry Codes tab.

Private Company – A private company is one that is owned by an individual, family, or group of partners. The amount of information that private companies must report is limited, and much of that is confidential. Thus, it is often difficult to find much information on a private company.

Public Company – A public company is a company that issues securities or shares of stock for the public. Those who purchase these securities or shares become investors in and owners of the company. This process is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and public companies must file numerous financial and other reports with the SEC. Because these reports are public information, much data and information can be found when researching public companies. For more information, visit the SEC web site at

SIC Code - Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes are four-digit codes used to identify an industry. Many resources use these codes to identify a company’s activities, index companies by activity, and to define industry data and information. For information on the history of the SIC codes and information about its replacement, the NAICS, visit the NAICS Association web site found under the Industry Codes tab. An excellent web site for a list of SIC codes and to search for a code is the OSHA site from the U.S. Department of Labor also located at the Industry Codes tab.

Subsidiary – A company which is owned in whole or in part by another company. When researching a subsidiary, it is often advantageous to also research the owning company or the parent company.

(Thanks to BYU librarian Leticia Camocho for sharing sections of this guide.)

Encyclopedia of Economic & Business History (online) From the Economic History Association - Use for historic industry research & understanding events that influence the economy.

Identifying publicly traded companies within a specific NAICS Classification

Finding Publicly traded companies by NAICS code:

Identify NAICS code through industry description [e.g. beer 312120]

Use the database Mergent Online

Use the middle column [Classification Search – Select one of the criteria]

-Primary NAICS & enter 6-digit code (e.g. 312120)

-Do not change drop-down box by index

-Do not change drop-down box by exchange

-Change drop-down box by country to United States

Results screen: above the Company Name column, click on the hyperlink that says:  # Public Companies

Results list should show publicly traded companies in United States. (According to YahooFinance dictionary, an inactive stock or bond is: A security that trades in very small volume on a daily basis.)