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Research Tip: Using Associations as Learning Resources for Tips, Trends, Employment

Associations are terrific sources for learning about businesses, professions and interest groups. Typically, trade and professional associations provide insight on trends, regulatory developments, employment opportunities and best practices. They publish newsletters, statistical profiles, research reports and membership directories.

I rely on associations for many facets of my daily work. Not long ago I took an online continuing education course on geo-spatial information resources via my national professional association, the American Library Association (ALA). I have, in addition, used ALA’s local and national association databanks to post Falvey Memorial Library’s employment opportunities.


In fact, the reputations of association publishers inform my collection-development choices. When looking for practice-related materials for human resource development, I don’t hesitate to buy guides published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). I am pleased that association websites often help me to guide student researchers to just the right bit of information needed to make a good analysis great.

This week, for example, a student was having a tough time doing a comparative analysis of cable TV stations using customary sources, such as news and business reports. After identifying a few cable broadcasting associations, she had what she needed to do a stellar estimation of her target station’s performance.

You, too, may find that getting in the habit of seeking out associations for data and insight is beneficial. The following resources will help you identify associations relevant to your interests:

  • My favorite is the Encyclopedia of Trade Associations:  National. With Advanced Search, you can search by description and limit to big budget or high membership organizations. Each entry describes the scope of the association, when it was founded, the membership and features, such as regular publications and conferences.
  • A bare-bones alternative is the Gateway to Associations. It only allows simple organization-name searches, but it is a viable tool for those individuals without access to library subscription databases.
  • The Leadership Library specializes in access to biographical information about association staff, a great feature when you are seeking an expert  within an organization.
  • A quick way to find key  industry-related associations is to check industry profiles, such as NetAdvantage (Standard & Poor’s), Mintel Reports, IBISWorld and Datamonitor , BMI, and ReferenceUSA—the “OneSource” module, which includes Datamonitor Industry Reports, BMI and Freedonia—all on the Business Databases guide. They list associations for additional information.
  • If you’re still at a loss, you can always search Google, refining the results to site: .org.  But with this method you’ll be wading through your results rather than chugging along with the information you need.



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Last Modified: November 7, 2012

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