Answered By: Sarah Morehouse
Last Updated: Apr 30, 2015     Views: 7

Identifying the person you want to research

The first step is to find out the name of the person who is the owner, CEO, CIO, President, or whatever position in the company you are interested in. (If you've already done that, you can skip to the next section.) 

One way to do that is to Google the company's name and look at the company's official web site. There should be an About page, and that will usually lead you to information about who fills each major role in the company. 

Also, if it is a bigger company and has a Wikipedia page, that page may have information about the company's owner and officers. 

Another thing you could do is Google "company name" "CEO" (the quotation marks tell Google that whatever's inside them is important and has to be in every search result it gives you. You will usually get your answer in the search results. 

Where to look for information about their background and early career

Here is where we often find a gap in our information. Our biggest biography database, Biography Research Complete, doesn't cover the owners and executives of businesses unless they also have made an impact in other areas. And ordinary people, even ordinary people who are rich and own or run corporations, do not generally get biographies written about them. To add to the difficulty, most of these people want to keep as much of their information private as possible!

Instead you will need to piece together information from a variety of sources, many of which are not scholarly. You really don't need to worry about that. Scholarly publishing is incredibly important when it comes to how things are discovered and how we come to understand them (for example, through the scientific method.) As long as there is a lot of room for error and conflicting interpretations, we need that peer review system. But when it comes to simple things like a person's birth date, what their first job was, and quotes from them about their management style, a popular magazine article or a high quality web site is good enough. 

  • You may be able to find the person's personal or official blog. Use Google or another reputable search engine.
  • The company web site may have information about the person. Use Google or another reputable search engine.
  • A business newspaper or magazine may have interviews or a profile of the person. More on that below.
  • Scholarly business articles may write about how a prominent business person turned a company around (or ran it into the ground) or analyze their management style. More on that below.

Searching article databases for magazine and scholarly journal articles on your person

Some of our article databases are going to be very useful for your search. The most important one for any business topic is Business Source Complete but you should also check out Academic Search Complete and Proquest Research Library.

You can get to all of them by going to the library web site (http://www.esc.edu/library.) Click Article DatabasesThen either use the search box at the top to search for your database by its name, or scroll down the alphabetical list until you get to the database you want. Click it and log in with your college login and password.

Business Source Complete and the other databases I mentioned all have a mix of articles from scholarly journals and popular magazines. Here is a tutorial that will help you understand the difference - http://subjectguides.esc.edu/researchskillstutorial/scholarly. Popular magazines like Business WeekFortune, and Forbes, as well as national newspapers (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, etc.) and business newspapers (Wall Street Journal, etc.) are known for running profiles of important people in the business world. And scholarly business journals will tend to have analyses of companies that have tried new things, significantly improved their performance, or gone downhill. 

The first thing you should try is to search "executive's name" AND "company's name". For example, "Jeff Parker" AND "Kroger Co.". But bear in mind that some articles might call him Jeffrey, or Mr. Parker. And they might call the grocery store Kroger Co. or just Kroger. So adapt your search for those variations like this ("Jeff Parker" OR "Jeffrey Parker") AND Kroger should work best in this case.

Here is some information about how to keyword search: http://subjectguides.esc.edu/researchskillstutorial/conceptchart and http://subjectguides.esc.edu/researchskillstutorial/boolean.

If you only want scholarly articles, there will be a check-box you can click for "scholarly," and that will remove all the popular magazine and newspaper articles from your search results list. Otherwise, they will be mixed in together. 

Web resources

Finally, here are some web sites that may be useful in your search for biographical information about business owners and executives:

What about small businesses and regional chains?

Small businesses are very difficult research topics. You may find one or two magazine or scholarly journal articles, and there may be some information on the company web site. Another good option is to check out the regional newspapers for the area of the country where that business is. For example, if you want to research the executives of Stewarts Shops, the Albany Times Union, Schenectady Gazette, and Troy Record would be important resources. Try the Regional Business News database, the New York Newspapers database, and the OnlineNewspapers.com web site. You will find all of them by going to the library web site (http://www.esc.edu/library). Click the Newspapers link and scroll down the list. Click the database you want and log in with your college login and password if it asks you to. Then you can search for your topic, such as "Stewarts Shops" AND "Gary Dake". 

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