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1 A GUIDE TO DESK RESEARCH

2
Desk Research is what The basic technique is to try to
professional researchers use to find documents and sources
describe tracking down useful pointing in the direction of the
existing pre-published information you want. A list of
information (also known as good starting points promises
secondary research). Many more than just looking at one
companies need to find out particular source. The challenge
information about their market is where do you start, and how
or competitors but for many do you know you’ve checked all
reasons cannot justify the the possible sources. This is
expensive of conducting large- where experience and a bit of
scale surveys to find the imagination can help to think
information they need. The aim laterally around the subject to
of this guide is to provide a few find useful information.
directions and tips to help you
find the information you are For example, for tulips in the UK
looking for. you might find expenditure on
flowers, or on gifts, or the
number of flower shops or the
3 GENERAL TECHNIQUES size of tulip farms and the level
of tulip imports. There are
usually many ways of finding
Typically when you start looking
useful estimates for the original
for information you have a
question and if all you have is
specific question in mind – for
estimates, then try to find at
instance “What is the size of the
least three to ensure they
market for tulips in the UK?” -
broadly coincide, and double
but you always have the
check they make intuitive sense.
problem that the information
actually might not exist at all.
For this reason aim to keep a
broad view of the information
4 SOURCES
you are looking for. If you are
lucky you might hit the target This isn’t supposed to be a
precisely, but more commonly canonical list of sources,
you will find related information perhaps a better description is
that is useful but not exactly the some sources for sources. You
answer. Sometimes this can be will find more detailed
better than the answer to the information about using the
question you are looking for. Internet for research, and
conducting primary survey
research at dobney.com.
4.2 Libraries

4.1 The Internet The traditional sources for desk


research are libraries. Different
With the wide availability of libraries have different
detailed and excellent materials emphasises – a university or
on the Web, the Internet is often academic library is more likely
the first port of call when to have government statistics,
looking for information. whereas a local library will have
Depending on what you are more information about local
specifically looking for the businesses for instance.
Internet can either be extremely Typically an academic library will
quick and rewarding on the one have more information and
hand or extremely tedious and more in detail than a public
frustrating on the other. library (particularly if there is a
business school to the academic
The basic principles are similar institution). The problem is
to normal desk research, in that always that academic libraries
you mainly want to look for sites are typically less easy to use
that have links to lots of other and less easy to get access to.
sources of information, using
with your favourite search Most business information is
engine to find these initial sites. held in a separate reference
The initial sites could be trade section with directories and
associations or interest groups, catalogues and will typically
magazines or just hobbyist links. include Kelly’s and Compass and
The challenge is then following other business listings (see
up the most appropriate links. later). As different libraries work
This is described in more detail in different ways, it is advisable
in another paper on to spend 1-2 hours just browsing
dobney.com. to get a feeling for the
information the library does and
But don’t forget that there are doesn’t have, before plunging in
often many alternative ways of to look for specific information.
finding information and the If you know the library, making
Internet may well be it work for you will be far easier.
comparatively slow. We were
once using the Web to look for One of the real strengths of
the telephone number of a libraries is that if you do get
company, only to give up after very stuck, the librarians are
an hour. We got the number normally only too happy to help.
after a 30 second phone call to As information professionals, the
directory enquiries. librarians usually really enjoy
trying to find unusual or difficult
information. They will also be 1.1.1.1 General
able to suggest and order books Marketing/Economic
from other libraries to make the Statistics
search easier.
1.1.1.1.1.1 Marketin
A typical approach to finding g Pocket
information say on Tulips in the Book
UK would be to find all the Published annually – brilliant
broadly applicable sources then source of basic marketing stats
to narrow the search. For (about £20)
instance understanding
household expenditure, looking 1.1.1.1.1.2 Family
at farm numbers and Expendit
agricultural output, looking for ure
trade associations for floristry Survey
for instance. It would also be Government published details of
worth looking at the specific where our money goes
floristry books to see if they
have references that can be 1.1.1.1.1.3 Business
followed up. You also might try Monitor
journals and magazines as often Trade statistics
journalists like to include
information that they think will 1.1.1.1.1.4 Mintel
be useful to their readers. Up-to-date market research
information about different
As a guideline, typically a good markets
search is likely to last at least 3-
4 hours and depending on your 1.1.1.1.1.5 Keynote
personality, some people find it reports
more interesting than others. Research information about
different
markets

1.1.1.1.1.6 Euromon
4.3 Published itor
sources General statistics across a wide
range of markets
There are way too many sources
1.1.1.1.2 Backgr
to list separately. The following
ound
are some favorite sources and
informa
most are likely to be found in a
tion
large town/city library.
Encyclopedia Britannica, Pears
Almanac
Whitakers, Which?
1.1.1.3 Government
1.1.1.1.3 Busines departments
s
specific All government departments
informa maintain and produce statistics
tion for their area of responsibility.
For instance transport statistics,
Kellys, Kompass, Dun and information about the number of
Bradstreet.list companies. Brad schools, or health statistics.
also produce an advertising Larger libraries may have this
expenditure monitor information to hand.
Alternatively contacting the
Lots of trade directories – many departments directly may help
have an industry summary at you find the information you are
the beginning looking for. For example, the
Department for Trade and
Company reports (Career’s Industry (DTI) produces an
libraries also have lots of annual report on the level of IT
information about businesses) use in business (Information
Society Initiative Report).
1.1.1.2 Local information
Local Councils may also be able
All councils publish minutes to help, but typically have fewer
from their meetings which can information specialists and
be found in the library. This may move a little more slowly than
well include information such as at the national level.
number of businesses, number
of tourists and so on. 1.1.1.4 Trade
Associations

4.4 Other sources In the UK there are trade


association for just about every
If the local library does not have type of work – depending on the
the information you need, you question you may find that
may need to get in contact with there are several associations
other possible sources such as involved. If you were supplying
Government departments or software to schools, you might
trade associations. Most have be involved with the Federation
pre-prepared information packs, Against Software Theft (FAST),
or can answer a question but you also might be a member
directly from their library by of the British Educational
post. Normally you would get in Suppliers Association (BESA).
contact by phone to start with.
Most Trade Associations have a
library and sometimes a full-
time librarian or researcher. In
certain cases, such as the you wish to ask. It’s worth trying
Chartered Institute of Marketing, to look at some before buying.
you may have to be a member
to use the library service. In this Sometimes you can get enough
category we would also include information from theses
Business Link which provides specialist’s press releases (often
help to small businesses. reproduced by trade magazines)
to provide a broad market
picture, where the detail in their
reports is not necessary.

1.1.1.5 Magazines and There are also companies that


publications provide library services to
members – such as Dialog (was
For up-to-the-minute Maid). Many larger advertising
information most information and direct marketing bureau
will come from trade-press. By have access to much costly
monitoring and clipping data. If you are looking at
information you can usually general consumer purchasing
build up a reasonable picture of habits, Target Group Index (TGI)
the market over time. However, from BMRB may be extremely
you can also phone the useful. Many advertising houses
magazines to find out if they have subscriptions however, for
can help you find information, on-going use you are advised to
particularly if you are following subscribe yourself.
up on a story they have written.
Again, most magazines have a
library and you may be put
through to their librarian. The 1.1.1.7 Competitors and
policy depends on the precise suppliers
magazine.
The final sources we will give
are competitors and suppliers.
1.1.1.6 Specialist Often your competitors and
Research Organisations suppliers are also conducting
market research about the same
There are a number of specialist markets in which you operate
market research organisations and sometime they will share
that collect and publish market that information with you.
research information (for Suppliers might be happy to
example Mintel, Frost & Sullivan, show you the report, whereas
IDC or Gartner Group in the IT competitors might release
world). However, often this information in press releases or
research is expensive and may in conference papers, talks or
be too general for the question sales pitches.