Chatbots, abundant intelligence (AI) and other algorithms have impacted librarianship since I’ve started working at Concordia 20 years ago. I remember a time of card catalogues, microfilm and the smell of toner. During my tenure, I’ve seen the emergence of Google, Wikipedia, iPhones, social media’s echo chambers & fake news, open access, open data, open sesame (that was an Alibaba joke), and so many pictures of kittens… which is to say, the only thing to fear is fear itself: don’t be a tool for AI, understand how to use it so it doesn’t own you. I’ve started using this logic in my lectures to business undergrads this semester: “if you use the top 10 hits in Google for your paper, you’re already obsolete because an algorithm is cheaper and more powerful than you.” Job prospects are a great motivating factor for JMSB students!
I’ve always had a knack to keep the attention of students. This time, they were begging me to help them avoid plagiarism and develop searching and analytical skills a librarian can provide. This builds on the knowledge provided by your disciplinary knowledge. The next decade will be as fascinating as it will be exciting. I am confident I will see libraries into the next Millenia. I’m not so sure about the contemporary form of Universities, though.
I like to remind myself that Socrates had a gripe against the written word. Quill, ink and parchment were a disruptive technology after all, and they feared that it would eliminate the skills required for societal discourse. Ditto for church leaders and that pesky invention called the movable type… And yet, here we are. Universities are a rather “recent” institution (at 1000+ years), compared to libraries (3000+ years), archives (at an impressive 5000-8000+ years) and cities… which archeologists point out existed well before the existence of (“big H”) Western style History (you know, the kind which uses traces and other records).
I would like to venture two hypothesis that ChatGPT brings to light with regards to teaching and learning in Universities. First, that the lecture (of the synchronous, on-site or online, “butts in seats” or “faces on screen” and “prof in front” kind) is quickly becoming a superfluous and an oddly conspicuously anachronistic use of everyone’s time. Second, that the standard academic paper, which is the echo of the lecture, really, is following suit.
What are we to do, then? Simple. The rhetoric about experiential and blended learning and other trends of teaching and learning are pointing the way forward. Oh, and open education too. (ok, ok, preaching for my parish, I know, but really, the only people who have harder knuckles than librarians are, well, archivists, having survived power struggles and the occasional fire for millennia, so you should probably see through my trauma & bias and listen).
I have spent the past decade studying how to lead artistic and cultural organisations through what highly priced consultants call digital transformation (pro tip: write a good copyright license for a simple technological community tool and you will transform for the better). I sense that we are overdue for a very serious conversation about how we all collaborate (within departments, between Universities, etc.) as well as what we consider valuable use of everyone’s time. Having a small army of humans draft papers that are essentially thrown away seems like rather wasteful, particularly given that we now have technological and legal methods to capture micro-contributions to build stunning knowledge objects. We also need to talk about who owns the ideas we generate and the methods or means we have to make them available. Let’s remember we owe that to those who pay for our nice buildings and pensions.
If we don’t discuss, it won’t be long that most of us (not I!) will be left in the dust by a abundant intelligence (AI).
This essay was inspired by the conversations provided during Concordia’s Digital Skill Share Days Conference, an on-campus level up activity for staff and faculty (Feb 9-10 2023) of which I am a member of the organizing committee.
These words were written by my hand directly on a keyboard, on this website. (reposted from my Faculty Union’s private forum)
Finding one’s place in society is arguably one of the outcomes of going to University. I rejoice at the idea that I could play a small role, as a business librarian at Concordia University, in assisting my community toward that goal. In light of this, here is a seminar I’ve prepared for colleagues working with student placement, leveraging library licensed databases and other sources on the Internet to connect students with businesses.
Develop a healthy information diet to foster the discovery of business information
Locate industry and market reports from the Internet and the Library
Explore information on occupations
Foster strategies to maximize the ongoing acquisition of business intelligence
Getting to know more about Montréal’s economy
Drilling down on occupations
Understanding Canadian industries
Drilling down to companies
Staying aware with articles
0. How is business information organized in society ?
This step provides a short overview of the different socioeconomic actors who create and make available business information (BI). The graph below shows the “5 usual suspects” that produce BI, namely governments, trade associations, individual companies, statisticians and analysts and journalists and researchers. Each one of these entities provides for a specific set of documents, which can be leveraged to locate BI.
1. Getting to know Montréal’s economy
Free web sources
Montréal International, the municipal office established to foster foreign investment, offers many sectorial reports about key sectors of the Montréal economic ecosystem. Market leaders and trade associations are highlighted in these 30 to 40 page reports, provided for free.
Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain, a broad reaching trade association, offers free Publications and a series of posts about relaunching the economy after Covid19.
Library licensed databases
Passport by Euromonitor offers reports about the top 3 Canadian cities (Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver) as well as a complete set of market reports. Log-in with your Concordia University NetName. Once you’ve accepted the terms of service, just search for Montreal. You can explore this comprehensive database about worldwide consumers (except for the report on cities, the data provided is at the national level).
2. Drilling down to occupations
Free web sources
Emploi Quebec offers a snapshot about Trades and Occupations. For a given trade/occupation, you can get the sectors of activity by industry: it provides the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code. You will need this code for other steps! You can also note the National Occupational Code (NOC) for later reference.
The Government of Canada’s JobBank is a great place to explore occupations. Start with Trend analysis » Occupations. In addition to the wonderful information on this page, notice how each occupation is given a “code” from the National Occupational Classification or NOC.
IBISWorld provides 25-35 page industry reports for thousands of Canadian industries (as well as for the USA, China and the world).
4. Drilling down to companies
Library licensed databases
Mergent Intellect, a business directory, offers data on individual companies. You can generate lists of companies and filter by industry, company size in terms of sales and employees as well as location.
5. Staying aware with articles
Library licensed databases
ProQuest Business offers a set of Canadian news and research articles. You can perform searches on the fly, and setup alerts based on various dimensions, such as:
Industries / Markets
Occupations / Jobs
Government agencies and Regulations
Searching is both a process and an outcome, like building a healthy life around your diet and exercise ! Many paths may lead you to your goals.
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
This question is quite astute as it allows me to consider both academic integrity as well as complying with copyright and licensing requirements. I’m periodically asked whether one can send an article or a report from a licensed database by our University Library to someone outside of our University’s library. The gist:
Don’t share, just cite ™
Source: Olivier Charbonneau, Senior Librarian, Concordia University (Montréal)
To expand on this simple guideline I can provide the following insight: our licensing agreements with most of our vendors do not allow members of the University Community to send the verbatim or full reports to parties from the external community. So, please do not forward PDFs from our licensed databases outside of our University. Caveat: anything on the “free web” – such as websites/reports from governments – are free to share in full (as per the Canadian Copyright Act).
I know this is unfortunate but I offer you a silver lining: members of the university community are allowed to read, learn and cite from reports or articles from our licensed databases to draft summaries or briefs. In addition, you can cite from multiple sources to craft a really powerful synthesis of a complex business topic. This resulting paper is your own, as long as you cite short but salient passages from reports or articles our licensed databases and provide the source in a proper bibliography (footnotes and/orendnotes).
This advice stems from a simple ethical rule in research: if you share a single source in full, this is usually called stealing… but if you cite salient but short passages from multiple sources and provide proper references, this is called research. The resulting research paper is yours: the authors of the research paper own the copyright of the resulting paper with citations and can leverage or mobilize it as they wish, like selling it to a client or posting it on the free web.
This is the ethical rule in authorship, in line with various complex copyright or licensing requirements, that exemplifies best practices for the university community. In addition, it also provides for a “value-added” service for business analysis: selecting and arranging salient business insight in a research brief. Believe it or not, this is what you are groomed to do in our business school. Your question exemplifies best practices, that of validating with a colleague how best to proceed given a novel or uncertain context.
In addition to the above insight, please allow me to point out the following resources I’ve created to support Canadian entrepreneurs:
In closing, please note that this summer, I shall be overhauling my research guides and corresponding YouTube tutorials, so these sources will shift in the coming months, as fast as this humble librarian (and single dad from an undisclosed location deep in the Montréal Suburbs) can crank out web and video Open Educational Resources. Please consult my work blog, www.outfind.ca, for updates.
Some sources are available to all on the Internet, others are licensed by Concordia University’s Library for students, faculty and staff of our organization. You will require your credentials (e.g. Netname) to access library licenses databases. To browse all databases recommended for students at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University, please access the Business Research Portal on the library website.
For each of the headings below, we provide the name of a source, also called databases, as well as a clickable link to access its content. Should you be prompted for your NetName, please provide it to log on.
And, yeah, you need to visit and use of all these sources. Yes way. For real… No, I’m not kidding. Using better sources will increase the quality of your paper. These are the best sources out there. You should have a really great bibliography…
OECD is the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. This system contains all OECD publications, as well as those from: International Energy Agency (IEA), Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), OECD Development Centre, PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), and International Transport Forum (ITF) since 1998.
The OECD is a an association of governments mostly from affluent countries.
Every year or so, the OECD produces a comprehensive report on the economies of member states (e.g. countries who are part of the OECD). If your target country is a member of the OECD, or if member states asked for such a report, make sure you search for:
economic survey <country-name-here>
Make sure you browse for other publications and dataset from this system, it contains information on many countries.
Make sure you use the “full version” of this system by clicking on the link above. The version on the “free web” does not provide enough insight to be useful.
Free website by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America. This is what they want us to know that they know about the world. We can neither confirm nor infirm that they know more, but they probably do. Incredible amount of detail for every country.
As Douglas Adams points out in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, backpackers know their way around the universe. Looking at travel websites and guides can provide insight and evidence useful for business. This is the free website of a specific series of travel guides. There are others out there. Your local public library may have more.
To focus your search, use the link in the heading for this section to
Search only articles on your country of choice from a single publication, in this case: The Economist, the reputed and long-running weekly British news magazine. Yeah, just type your country’s name in the search box and… voilà!
Sort by publication date: this will give you a run-down of the salient news.
This page was created for District 3 or D3 in Montréal Canada for a training seminar on May 6th 2020.
Locate industry and market reports from the Internet and the Library
Understand how to use datasets from Statistics Canada and other providers
Develop a healthy information diet
How to frame your business environment: industries, markets, competition and regulation… think before you Google.
Using Google for business research: trade associations & governments
Statistic Canada for entrepreneurs
Resources from your local library: industry/market research and trade/research articles
1. Think before you Google or figuring out your business environment
Entrepreneurs are called upon to seek out misaligned flows of money. Be it capital expenditures, spending or untapped markets, the keen eye will spot opportunities to launch a new business. Before you spend all night frantically googling the web for insight, here are some key points to consider.
Googling means missing out. Yes, there is a lot of great stuff out there, that’s why we’ll talk about using the Google search engine as our next point. But, there is a lot of information on the free web that’s not indexed by web crawlers used by search engines to compile their index, most notably datasets from Statistic Canada. Similarly, search engines like Google may crawl and index pages which are behind a paywall. This happens often in Google Scholar. Either you fork out your hard earned cash, either you let your local library pay for digital access. That’s what we do at Concordia, with our Business Research portal, as well as McGill’s Library for their students and the Grande Bibliothèque for anyone in Québec. We’ll talk about library resources later.
Google means popular. Google’s algorithms uses many variables to determine the relative value of a page, given a specific set of keywords. For many reasons, such as search engine optimization (SEO) strategies or past behavior online, this process can fail you. Seeking out valuable and authoritative business insight sometimes just does not fit with what’s popular on the Web. You seek authority and the algorithm is set up to promote popular stuff.
Google as a tool. You should learn how to use the tool in light of its limitations. You should also look for other tools that complement it. Pro tip: this involves obscure websites and the library. Let’s dig a little deeper…
The Internet as linked documents from people and organisations. Creating any document requires effort: tweets, YouTube videos, blog posts… but also market reports, industry statistics, newspaper and trade articles. These documents were created by people and organisations. Why would someone release invaluable and authoritative insight for free on the Internet?
There are a set of usual suspects who regularly create valuable and authoritative documents: governments; trade/lobby or consumer organisations; corporations; market/industry analysts; and journalists and researchers. Some of them want to monetize their efforts, so their documents are not posted online for free. Also, sometimes they post their material online, but it doesn’t make it to the top results because they are not concerned with popularity.
So, to Google or not to Google? My answer is in three parts: better googling, in addition to seeking out obscure websites such as Statistic Canada’s Data and using Library resources.
2. Better Googling
Government agencies exist to ensure compliance with regulations and the safety of our communities. Any time a corporation needs a permit, a government agency is usually somewhere in the background looking and thinking about what they do. Government services rely on and supplement markets and corporations. This symbiotic relationship means that governments have a lot of reports and data you can use, in addition to Statistic Canada, which we will cover later.
Trade associations are organizations where industry leaders converge to share concerns, advocate to governments and media, as well as organize events such as trade shows. They provide lists of their members, write white papers, publish news and trade journals, list job postings… all of these documents provide insight and authoritative information – but only if you take a moment to think about what they mean. Google can’t help you think.
The first two videos from this playlist covers my points:
3. Statistic Canada
Google only indexes a few sections from the Statistic Canada domain. Most of the juicy stuff is located in obscure sections, most notably the Data portal and the census. Here are two videos on each of these topics.
If you are looking for information on another country, find their national statistical agency, it will have a census as well as a data portal. Some examples include: Census data from the USA, Eurostat for the European Union and UN Data’s Explorer for most countries worldwide.
Pro tip: don’t look for what you think you need, try to use what you find.
4. Library subscribed industry/market research
IBISWorld provides industry reports for Canada, US and China.
Here are some starting points for succeeding the final project at JMSB’s (Concordia University) MARK 305 Consumer Behavior course. Remember to think about who produces what kind of information and in which format:
1. Consumer behavior trend analysis: Where do we find information about emerging trends in CB?
Free web sources recommended by Olivier, your librarian. These sources showcase unique data, e.g. “new data” not found elsewhere, that have been posted on the Internet by trustworthy sources:
IBISWORLD reports: this system is in the “industry analysis” section of the Business Research Portal
ProQuest Business Databases: find articles by searching for the name of the trade associations, major players, industry name or consumer trend concept. Focus on articles from trade journals and academic/peer-reviewed/scholarly journals
Do you really think Google can help you with this one?
3. Consumer analysis: demographics, size of the target market and their consumption process (pre-during-post)
Remember: you’ve already learned so much! Don’t forget to use what you’ve found already!
When researching or launching a new business, information about industries, markets or competitors can be invaluable. In this session, we will cover resources from the Internet as well as licensed market and industry intelligence databases available from Concordia University Library. This is a workshop adapted from the “Entrepreneurship” course at the John Molson School of Business.
Locate industry and market reports from the Internet and the Library
Understand how to use datasets from Statistics Canada (Census & Cansim) and other national agencies
Develop a healthy information diet
1. Know your market & industry: reports from IBIS Wrold; SME Benchmarking; Mergent Intellect 2. Using Google for business research: trade associations & governments 3. Statistics Canada for entrepreneurs: Census & CANSIM 4. Reading up on your idea & staying up to date with articles
0. Where does information come from?
1. Know your industry – look up industry codes (NAICS)
One of the key milestones in researching a business plan involves identifying the correct industry – or industries, as there may me many – to do some digging. This is important to understand your business idea, its business model and its industry. Here is a video I prepared about this:
A key success measure of this step involves identifying specific industry codes, such as the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Codes. These codes will speed up searching through value added databases licensed by your Library (such as these from Concordia University). Remember: you probably should identify the following industry (NAICS) codes, five (5) digit codes are optimal:
The industry code in which your business “fits”
Industry codes for businesses who pose substantial parallel competition (for example, 51511 Radio Broadcasting vs. 518210 – Data processing, hosting, and related services for music streaming)
Industry codes for suppliers or buyers (if you are in a business-to-business setting) if they are substantially larger than you (which notes business risk based on market power). Looking up and down the supply chain is up to you.
Any other industry code meaningful for your business, particularly those that may disrupt your business environment.
Now to the point: how do you know if you have the right industry codes? Well, this depends entirely on how much effort you are willing to put into researching your business project (arguably, the more codes you have, the more reading you will have to do) as well as, well, the fear of missing out (leaving an industry code “out” of the scope of your research means you run the risk of not getting your hands on key insight for your project). This is entirely up to you and I really can’t weigh in about this. Caveats aside, here are some simple advice to assist you in making your own mind as to which industry codes to pick and how many you need:
Read the definitions of these codes from the Statistic Canada NAICS Codes page. This site sometimes include example activities and excluded activities (arguably, for some older versions of the codes, so the latest edition of the classification schedule may not have example or excluded activities).
Read the IBIS World report for the Canadian industry (NAICS) code and look at the “About this industry — Supply Chain” section. When you access any specific report on IBIS, this is the section shown on the landing page of the Web interface (with the red dot & arrows). On te PDF report, it is located on page 2 – “similar industries” and their NAICS Codes are listed there.
Use a business directory (e.g.: phone book) of small businesses, such as Mergent Intellect (formerly D&B Million Dollar Database) to look for specific companies, such as direct competitors. Industry codes are listed on the information page for a company in these systems. Remember – these directories may be wrong imprecise as companies may be misfiled by the analysts (or algorithms) filing companies in directories… but this is an interesting way to get feedback about the codes you’ve selected for your project.
Search for articles for that specific industry (NAICS) Code – NOT GOOGLE. For example, you can use ProQuest Business Databases and type: NAICS 45391. You usually get articles and market reports on or about this code (sometimes you get a but of noise, but you can easily ignore this). Reading up on news for an industry codes is a great way to determine if this code is interesting or relevant for your project.
At the end of the day, it is up to you to determine if you have the correct industry (NAICS) code(s) and if you have enough of them.