Skip to Main Content

Market and industry research

This extensive guide covers numerous aspects of business research, including tools and strategies for researching industries, consumers, and companies.

How to use this guide

In order to do a thorough job in industry research, you need to know how industry information is organized, who collects and provides access to industry research data, and how to access it. 

This guides begins with information on industry codes, because all industry information is organized using these codes.  The most common ones are the NAICS, SIC, and ISIC codes, however there are many others, depending on what part of the world you are researching.  For the purposes of assignments at Royal Roads University, these are the codes you will most likely use or encounter.

Start by reading this page to learn more about the different codes, and see if you can't identify the NAICS, SIC, and ISIC codes for the industry you're interested in researching. Once you've identified your codes, use the subsequent tabs on this guide to initiate your search.  Under these tabs you will find out who collects industry data, and how to search it.

What is a SIC code?

The SIC (Standard Industry Classification) system is another industry code standard.  Developed in the U.S. in 1937, it is slowly being supplanted by the NAICS code system, which was created in 1997 as a result of the NAFTA agreement.  However, U.S. government agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), still use the SIC codes, as do many other countries.

SIC codes are always 4-digit codes. Like the NAICS code, they are used to classify industry areas.  SIC codes are particularly useful if you are using the Library's Simply Map database, as these codes can provide much more granular data on the whereabouts of companies for mapping purposes. (As an aside, if you are interested in learning how to map out businesses, then see our Simply Map guide.)

SIC code lookup

Through the United States Department of Labor website, you can do a search for SIC codes, or browse a complete list. 

If you are having any difficulty finding the SIC code for you industry, ask a reference librarian for help.

What is a NAICS code?

The NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) is the standard used by both Canadian and U.S. statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing statistical data related to the North American economy.

NAICS codes vary from 3-digits to 6-digits in length, and are assigned to industries. They form a numerical hierarchy for organizational purposes.

For example:

NAICS code   Industry
445 Food and Beverage Store
4452 Specialty Food Store
445220 Fish and Seafood Markets


As you can see, the longer the number, the more specific the industry.  The shorter the number, the broader the industry. 

NAICS codes are particularly useful if you are researching Canadian industries as both Statistics Canada and Industry Canada use this classification system.  As well, many of the Library's business databases, like IBISWorld, Mergent Online, Business Source Premier, and ABI/Inform, all use the NAICS system.

NAICS code lookup

You can search for NAICS codes using the Statistics Canada website.

Note: Sometimes you will have a very specific industry in mind, but there may not be a NAICS code for it.  This is particularly true when it's a relatively new industry.  In this case, you will need to use the broader industry code.  If you can't find the NAICS code for the industry you're researching, contact a reference librarian for assistance.

What is an ISIC code?

The ISIC (International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities) is a system developed by the United Nations for classifying economic data.

It is particularly useful if you are using the Library's Passport GMID database, as the industry reports within that database are categorized using the ISIC code.  The ISIC code is also good for comparing industries globally because it provides you with a standard that you can compare across countries.

Like the NAICS code, the ISIC code uses a hierarchical structure. The categories at the highest level are called sections. The first two digits of the code identify the division, the third digit identifies the group and the fourth digit identifies the class.

For example:

Section C Manufacturing
Division 13 Manufacturing of textiles
Group 139 Manufacturing of other textiles
Class 1393 Manufacturing of carpets and rugs

ISIC code lookup

This website lets you search or browse ISIC codes.