Monday, August 31, 2009

Wolfram|Alpha - a search engine for facts and figures

Wolfram|Alpha's FAQ says it's not a search engine, but a "computational knowledge engine." What's important is what it can do. It provides fast answers to your facts and figures questions.

For an idea of what kinds of questions Wolfram|Alpha can answer, and an introduction to how to use it, check out this 13 minute video from its creator: Introduction to Wolfram|Alpha.

Wolfram Alpha is located at http://www.wolframalpha.com. When you get there, you will see a standard search box up at the top. For simple requests just type into the box and click the orange = button. For even greater precision, you can choose the subject area/kind of question from a list beneath the search box on the front page. Wolfram|Alpha does a decent job of handling natural language queries like "distance from sun to pluto" or "average blood pressure of a 50 year old woman." It will ask "Did you mean...," and you can click the wording that it offers.

To get started, why not try out some of the example searches here: http://www.wolframalpha.com/examples/.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Company Research in Mergent

Mergent is a premier business research database. It's the best place to begin for company research.

You can access Mergent by going to the library homepage at http://www.esc.edu/library. Click All Databases By Title, and then scroll down and click Mergent. Log in with your college login and password.


To look up a company by name, go to the Identifier box on the left and click Company Name. Then type in the company's name and click search. If you don't know the company's full official name, a keyword will bring up a list. You can look up a publicly traded company by its stock market Ticker Symbol, and a private company by its DUNS number - remember to click the "Include private companies" option!

Once you have search results, click on the name of the company to view information about it.

The first page of the report is the Synopsis, which provides an overview of the company. Be sure to click each of the options in the green bar across the top. These provide detailed information in these categories: Highlights, History, Joint Ventures, Business, Property, Subsidiaries, Long Term Debt, Executives, and Capital Stock.

In the lower left, you can click the "EDGAR" link for a publicly traded company's SEC filing, annual report, and other information. (Annual reports for private companies can sometimes be found online by Googling +"company name" +"annual report".)
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