For my Business Reference class, we recently had a question-set assignment where our goal was to find the most up-to-date information and provide the “correct” answer with APA-citation. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. I discovered many problems with the assignment to the point I was second guessing myself over and over. This could be attributed to my OCD-nature as a LS grad student, or what’s more likely is that the questions could have several different answers and I would never know if it was the most up-to-date.
Thus, here are some major sources of frustration:
Problem #1: Many of the questions in the “question-set” were to mimic that of a typical reference question. They didn’t.
Problem #2: There are so many different resources, which one should I use with the most current information? Or am I really supposed to look at EVERYTHING? Is that practical?
Problem #3: I am not very good at Math, nor Statistics…(this speaks for itself).
With my frustration mounting, I decided to contact an old colleague of mine for help, since business reference is his schtick, and he was more than happy to help me (thankfully). In my paranoid, frantic e-mail, I wanted to address problem #1 (see above, 😛 ). I wanted to know if questions such as: “List the revenue and net income for INSERT COMPANY HERE for the past 5 years. What is the company’s growth rate over each of the last five years based on the total revenue/sales?” were typical. When I first read this question, I had NO CLUE what any of that meant. Coming from a humanity background, I didn’t even know what resources would have such information. I also didn’t think this was a reference question that I would ever see, because I would never DO someone’s homework for them. I can understand providing the material and the formula to answer this questions, but I would NEVER figure out “growth rate”..see Problem #3: I am not very good at math, and would not trust myself helping to that extent.
Then, Problem #2 struck me. Gah! How can I possibly sort through all of this information?? How do I know it is the most up-to-date?? The only way I could think to approach this was to just go to a database and check it out. I figured, if it seems too old, it probably is, and I went with that, no matter how impractical my method seemed.
But it worked! Here is a list of databases/resources I found most current for business reference (if you library subscribes to it, that is):
3. Yahoo! Finance (Yes, Yahoo, if you don’t believe me, check it out)
4. Datamonitor (great SWOT analysis)
After that, comes the most out-of-date: The U.S. Census. Obviously. If it isn’t FactFinder, expect this to be your last resort. Also, instead of answering Industry questions with the Census, try using their trade-industry website. For example, if you get a question such as, “how many people are employed in the restaurant industry?,” check out The National Restaurant Association website: http://www.restaurant.org/
This is so much quicker than the Census Industry Statistics page, as you don’t have to choose whether the restaurant you are referring to is full-service, limited-service, etc. The patron may not know all of that information after you conduct the reference interview.
Then comes the citation. APA. Business database. How?
Here is a link to a wonderful resource for business citations, you can’t even find this stuff on OWL! http://www.sru.edu/academics/library/resources/Pages/mgmt_citing.aspx