If you’ve spent any time with our Company Information research guide, you know Lippincott Library has a number of company directories. Reference USA has a few unique features that make checking it out well worth your time. Reference USA offers comprehensive coverage of both currently operating and closed businesses, and coverage of historical businesses from 2003 forward. Reference USA doesn’t just cover businesses. It also indexes the U.S. and Canadian White Pages, and tracks consumer lifestyles, moves, and home purchases. Also, Reference USA verifies all of its information by calling the businesses it indexes.
Now that you’ve seen the numbers of businesses in Reference USA, let’s take a look at what you can do with them. Reference USA’s strength is the number of search criteria it offers to help you generate a customized list of businesses or consumers, and the visualizations it can generate from your custom results lists.
If you’re looking for a specific person or business, the quick search will meet your needs, but Reference USA’s advanced search is its real strength. You can search across any or all of Reference USA’s business records, which covers over 44 million currently operating and closed businesses.
In advanced search, you can limit your results by all of the standard search filters: company name, executive name or title, business or industry type (SIC code, NAICS code, or a keyword), by business size, number of employees, type of ownership (public or private), or by a business’s sales or financial data. But you can also limit your results with some Reference USA-specific filters like a business’s web presence or lack thereof, what social media platforms a business is active on, the size of their Yellow Page ads, or the square footage of their facilities.
You can also limit your results by geographic location. Reference USA offers the standard City, State, Region, and Zip Code geographic search filters, but their most interesting geographic search filter is the “Map Based Search” filter at the top of the list.
This search filter allows you to draw your own custom geographic region on a map of the United States and limit your search to that area. This search filter is particularly helpful for searching sections of states that aren’t part of traditional metro or city regions or for searching multiple custom or separate geographic regions. For example, I want to search for businesses in Pennsylvania around Pittsburgh and the surrounding area and also in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. I can do that with Map Based Search much more easily than with more traditional geographic search filters because I can draw an outline the area(s) I want to search directly on the map.
When you’ve drawn lines around all the areas you want to search, you can apply your Map Based Search limit along with any of the other search limits. Click view results in the upper right corner, and you’ll generate a list of every business that meets all of your criteria.
You can click into each individual record for a detailed company description and history, and you can download any or all of these company records. (Downloads are limited to 250 records per batch if you’re using ReferenceUSA on-campus, and 150 records per batch off-campus. If you want to download company records in bulk, you also access ReferenceUSA’s company records through InfoGroup in WRDS.) You can also analyze these company records by each company’s SIC Code, city, zip code, sales volume, and number of employees, and you can generate a heat map of your results to analyze areas of concentration.
Now that I’ve mapped out how to use Reference USA, I hope you’ll check it out. Lippincott Library subscribes to a number of company directories, but Reference USA’s unique search filters and data visualization tools make it a powerful tool for researching a specific industry or geographic area. Whether you want to see where new businesses are opening up, check out the competition in an industry, or find out how many businesses are in a non-traditional geographic region, Reference USA can help.