Database of the Month: ReferenceUSA

ReferenceUSA is a strong, reliable database filled with directory information on businesses and people. It is most popularly used for getting detailed company information or to create a list of competitors in a specific industry. It contains private and public company information and is updated monthly.

Who can use it?

ReferenceUSA is available online to all Bentley community users with active Bentley coordinates; find it on Bentley Library’s Databases A-Z page.

Students of GB320 are the most likely users of this resource, especially for company research assignments. Other typical projects informed by ReferenceUSA are business intelligence or research for an upcoming interview.

Our sample search today is research for an upcoming interview (see below).

What’s inside?

ReferenceUSA generates data in the form of addresses, phone numbers, and URLs, without narrative comment or storyline. The ReferenceUSA search interface guides users to select parameters and the database dynamically generates this list.

Sample search for potential internship places

The sample search that follows is preparation for an upcoming interview.  In this scenario, the goal is to identify organizations and inquire about internships. We will look for small organizations specializing in disaster relief work in the south of the United States.

  1. On the ReferenceUSA landing page, choose to search “U.S. Businesses”, then select the “Advanced Search” tab for best results.

    ReferenceUSA Advanced Search
    Click to view larger image.
  2. On the “Advanced Search” screen, identify search parameters:
    ReferenceUSA Search Parameters
    Click to view larger image.
    • Under Business Type, select to do a “Keyword SIC/NAICS” search, which will search within SIC or NAICS industry classification codes. A keyword search for “disaster” within SIC Codes results in several options. We will choose “832290 Disaster Contractors” and three related industries which look good for our future internship.
    • Additional parameters chosen for this search – “Geography” (state),  “Phone” (business phone) and “Business Size” (Number of Employees = less than 100). Note that in the screenshot above, “Sales Volume” is not checked as a parameter, reasoning that disaster relief organizations may not have metrics in this area.
  3. Click “Update Count” when finished selecting parameters.
  4. Click “View Results” to view 28 results in this search for disaster relief agencies located in 10 southern states of the US, with 100 or fewer employees. Drill into each record for granular information on that organization.

    ReferenceUSA Search Results
    Click to view larger image.
  5. Download this list of 28 to a laptop in .xlsx format for easy sorting and saving. Note that the number of downloads is limited to 500 hits.

You’re done! These are leads to pursue for a future internship.

What sets it apart?

ReferenceUSA prioritizes accuracy very highly and fact-checks everything by telephone calls. ReferenceUSA culls its information from the US White page telephone directories, the U.S. Census Bureau, and from publicly filed records. It has estimated 44 million US businesses, 1.5 million of them closed and 4.5 of them newly established, making historical analysis or projections possible.

Other goodies:

  • Links under the “Job Help” tab connect users to outside sources such as and , a reflection of ReferenceUSA’s origins in 1992 when it began as a search tool for students, job seekers and researchers.

For self-help, ReferenceUSA provides user-contributed how-to videos under the “Take a Tour” tab, each of these recordings explain the search process in under 5 minutes.


Database of the Month provides a very brief introduction to a database available from the Library’s website, highlighting key features of the database that you should know about. If you would like more information about this database (or any of the library’s databases), please contact us for research assistance. If you would like a demonstration of this database for a class, please schedule a research instruction class using this form.