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SWOT Research

This research guide will help students find information needed for a SWOT analysis. It includes databases, websites and videos showing how look for the different factors.

What are Threats?

What are Threats?

Threats are changes that take place in the external environment that put your organization's operations and business model at risk.  Some examples include:

  • New or Increased competition

Are there new organizations that are offering competing products or services, or competitors that are getting more market share?  Are these competitors able to provide these products and services better, more efficiently, or at a lower cost?

  • Laws and regulation

Are governments or industry groups passing new laws or regulations that could increase costs or prevent your organization from operating effectively?  These could include rules on manufacturing, employee safety, or taxes, as well as international concerns like trade restrictions and tariffs.

  • Shifts in consumer demand and taste

Are your customers losing interest in your product or service, or are they becoming more interested in competing products?  Do competitors have celebrity endorsements, partnerships, or advertising and marketing campaigns that are hurting your company or brand?

  • Economic factors

Are your consumers able to afford your product?  Could factors like employment rates, disposable income, or changes in demographics (such as an aging population) affect your organization's business model?

  • Technology and design

Are new and updated technologies threatening to make your product unpopular, or even obsolete?

  • Negative press or media coverage

Has your organization had negative coverage on the news or on social media?  Has a product or service become unpopular?  Has a partnership or celebrity endorsement worked against the company?

Where can I find information on the Threats to my organization?

How to Find Industry Information

Understanding what is going on in the industry of your company (e.g. pricing trends, competition, cost trends, innovation) and what is happening in the operating environment (e.g. economy, demographic trends, regulation/laws etc) will help you assess the threats to your organization.

Find Industry Reports in the Following Databases:

What is a 10-K Report?

If the organization you are studying is a publicly traded company, it must submit an annual report to the SEC every year called a 10-K report.  This report describes how the company operates, its current financial status, and any outside challenges, risks, and threats.

If your organization is a private company or a non-profit group, they do not have to file a 10-K report.  However, you may still wish to see if they provide other types of Annual Reports on their website.


How do I find information about a company's Threats in the 10-K Report?

The risks are usually discussed under the following section of the 10-K:

  • Item 1A - Risk Factors

You can also search within the 10-K report while it is open in your web browser.  Hit the CTRL and F key on your keyboard (or, if using an Apple computer, click on the symbol key and F) to find specific words or phrases in the document.  Look for terms such as "risk", "threat", "competition", or particular words such as "legislation" or "demand."

Where do I find a company's 10-K Reports?

You can find a public company's 10-K report & other quarterly or special reports:

How to Search EDGAR for 10-K Reports

Researching the Competition

Research your organization’s competitors and the threats they might pose to your company. 

How do I identify my organization's competition?

Look up your company in databases such as Business Insights, IBISWorld or Nexis Uni, and look for a list of competitors.  If your organization is a non-profit organization, try searching the internet for other organizations that offer similar services or support.

How do I find information about these competitors?

Search ProQuest or one of the other databases listed below, using your competitor's name and one of these subjects.  Focus on the most recent sources you can to get an accurate idea of how the competitor's most recent plans put your organization at risk.

  • New products; product launch; 
  • Strategic planning; new initiatives
  • Innovations; technology
  • Investments
  • Partnerships
  • Endorsements

Nexis Uni:  Search the News

Proquest:  Use Basic Search

Strategies for Finding Threats to your Organization

As you search through the company reports, databases, and other sources for threats to your organization, try searching for words such as:

  • Challenge
  • Obstacle
  • Criticism
  • Competition

Once you have identified some potential threats, search again for the words or phrases that describe those challenges.  These could include:

  • Taxes and tariffs
  • Trade agreement
  • Regulation
  • Consumer demand
  • Supplier shortage

Questions to ask when researching Threats to your organization