University Library DePaul Library

Research Tips

Searching for the acronym SWOT can be too literal of an approach. Of course, it helps to know what that acronym stands for—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats—but even those terms alone can be too limiting. Go beyond searching for just that vocabulary and consider synonyms and related terms for each concept. For example, a search in either database Business Source Complete or ABI/Inform on Starbucks AND strengths will move you in the right direction but will only take you so far. A better search syntax will look like this:

strengths OR advantages OR opportunities OR growth OR expansion

...Similarly:  weaknesses OR disadvantages OR threats OR risks OR competition

Positive or negative attributes will not necessarily be obvious just because these terms are present. An article that discusses Starbuck’s brand equity or high rate of customer satisfaction would be a plus. An article dealing with rising costs or community backlash against chains would be a minus. Form your own analysis of content from articles and other documents, be prepared to categorize something as a strength, weakness, opportunity or threat. Don’t always rely on it being labeled as such for you.

Trade and professional association Websites are also valuable sources of market research and statistics. Do an advanced Google search combining industry keywords and "association" limited to the .org domain. For example:

restaurant association

Yes, some associations require a membership to access content, but many others provide free access. Look for anything labeled "research" or "media kit", for example.

In fact, there is an entire directory of associations searchable by keywords and/or geography if you want a more systematic approach to finding relevant organizations to explore:


Growth of "Entrepreneurship" coverage in ABI/Inform