Critical Thinking Publishing Reference

What are primary sources in business?

According to the Concordia University Library website:

A primary source is any original work that is unmediated by external analysis, evaluation, or interpretation. A secondary source is typically an external study of primary sources, usually written retrospectively. A tertiary source typically amalgamates the content found in primary and secondary sources and is less critical or argumentative than secondary sources.

Source: Concordia University Library, What are primary sources?

With regards to primary or secondary sources, the distinction usually about the identity of the organization issuing the source. In the field of business, primary sources are documents issued by the corporation (press releases, product catalogues, corporate websites, advertisements, financial statements and other filings, etc.) while secondary sources are issued by others, most notably journalists or researchers writing articles about the corporation.

Interviews throw an interesting curve ball into this distinction. I would say that a news or trade journal article featuring an in-depth interview with an executive would probably qualify for a primary source, if the article contains only the interview. If the article only has a few quotes from a company source but contains much more than just the interview (say, commentary or analysis), then the article in question ceases to qualify as a primary source (primary = from the mouth of the corporation or their executives).

It is important to note that certain academic disciplines may have a different definition for primary/secondary sources. Most notably, historians usually consider historical newspaper articles as “primary sources” in their disciplines because of how they conceptualize these sources within the framework of their academic discipline. This is important should you seek out information on the Internet about primary/secondary sources…

Business plans Country statistics

Get familiar with Statistics Canada

Statistics Canada is the federal government’s main primary research organisation. It keeps tabs on many aspects of Canadian life, including the economy, resources and, of course, the population. It is an incredible source of market or industry data and analysis. All for free, but only a small portion is indexed by Google.

According to StatCan:

In addition to conducting a Census every five years, there are about 350 active surveys on virtually all aspects of Canadian life. Objective statistical information is vital to an open and democratic society. It provides a solid foundation for informed decisions by elected representatives, businesses, unions and non-profit organizations, as well as individual Canadians. As a member of the United Nations Statistical Commission, Statistics Canada endorses the Fundamental principles of official statistics.

Source: About Statistics Canada

That last point is important: official statistical agencies strive to produce certain aggregate datasets that are comparable between countries. This. in turn, allows market data provides, such as Euromonitor, to develop market research solutions based on trusted sources. More about Euromonitor and its Passport database on Concordia University Library’s Business Research Portal. It also means that if you understand Statistics Canada, you will probably understand how to use EuroStat, the American Census, as well as OECD iLibrary (for countries that are part of this intergovernmental agency) or the United Nation’s Data portal.

Although most of Statistic Canada’s reports and aggregate datasets are available on its Internet site, only a small proportion is indexed by Google. In that sense, you have to learn how to navigate its website to make good use of this source as a market research tool.

One of Statistic Canada’s most important program is the quinquennial census: every 5 years, census officers perform a complete head-count of everyone in Canada. This is not a survey because they do not employ statistical significant samples of the population. Everyone answers “the short form” questionnaire, covering basic demographic statistics. In addition, every fifth household must answer “the long form” questionnaire, digging much deeper in demographic detail: income, education, labour… the census is an absolutely indispensable market research source.

Learn how to discover the size of a target market based on demographic characteristics by using the Census’s Data Tables Analytical Product by watching this short video:

A demonstration of the Census Data Tables, used for marketing research purposes

Another interesting tool is the Census Profile of a place in Canada. This gives you the profile of a specific place in the country. Have some fun: get the Census Profile of your own postal code and get a sense of the demographic makeup of your neighborhood… this video will explain how:

Demonstration of a Census Profile of a place in Canada, at the postal code level

The third and last section of the Statistic Canada website is the Data Portal. This is where you can generate custom data tables from the 350 other survey programs maintained by Statistics Canada. Here is a short video explaining how to use it, particularly using the Household Spending by income Quintiles by Province (my favorite data table for marketing research).

Demonstration of Statistics Canada’s data portal, showcasing the household spending by income Quintiles

I hope you now get a sense of how Statistics Canada offers extensive marketing research opportunities for those capable of navigating its website. This is one of the examples of a hidden website on the free web, whereby Google will be most useless to assist you.

Concordia University Information literacy

Library services for graduate students (Fall 2020)

Fall 2020 will bring a new cohort of exceptional students to Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business. I have been asked to present, very succinctly, the library services and collections afforded to them upon joining us. Please find below the outline of my presentation, with corresponding links.

  1. The library website is your portal to our services and collections
    2. Sofia, our NextGen search engine, covering the print and digital collection (with partial coverage of our market & industry resources). Search for academic articles and books here.
    3. Blue “ribon” – below Sofia – provides for quick access to popular resources: Databases by subject; eJournals; Citation guides
    4. Information for graduate students (we will cover these points in further detail below)
    5. A note about Google Scholar: use the settings to display “deep links” to articles in our databases, see:
  2. Spectrum, copyright and open access
    2. Theses defended at Concordia University. Yours will be made available here at the end of your studies.
    3. Advance search: by department or by advisor (find out about past projects)
    4. For theses from around the world, use the database named ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Full Text, PQDT:
    5. Pro tip: find a few theses of interest and get a sense of the scope, tone, and use their bibliography as a starting point for your literature review!
  3. Zotero
    2. In Sofia and most article databases, you can upload bibliographic data directly to your own account on Zotero.
    3. Organize your readings in folders for your seminars as well as chapters to your thesis. Create your own abstracts and reading notes in special fields.
    4. You can create bibliographies automatically in hundreds of citations styles with the click of a button in your favorite. Check out our GradProSkills workshops on Zotero (or search YouTube!)
  4. RSS for “Really Simple Syndication”
    2. Be at the forefront of your discipline by harvesting RSS feeds on a special app or website. Subscribe to the table of contents of journals (, setup an alert in article databases like ProQuest or enjoy webcomics for academics (like
  5. TOC: Learn how to create a Table of Contents automatically in any word processing software… you need to encode your document properly
    1. How to do this in MS Word:
  6. Remember to ask us questions!
    1. For general information:
    2. Request an appointment with your subject librarian:
  7. Take care and enjoy our collection – we allocate about 7 million dollars a year to enrich it!

Olivier Charbonneau

Olivier Charbonneau is an associate Librarian at Concordia University, Olivier Charbonneau is primarily interested in copyright issues as well as questions of open access and Web 2.0. He is a doctoral student at the Faculté de droit, Université de Montréal. He has over 15 years of professional involvement in library and cultural communities. He holds two masters degrees from Université de Montréal, one in information sciences and another in law, as well as an undergraduate degree in commerce from McGill University.