Citing Sources in a Business Pla

Citing Sources in a Business Plan: Forecast Market Trends Using Facts, not Fantasy

In a tight credit market, lenders and investors want to see verifiable information in a business plan’s analysis. When seeking financing or investors, show the facts!

Businesses seeking financing or investors must be supported by a business plan that provides verifiable information. Especially during an economic downturn, lenders and venture capitalists will go over financial projections with a fine-toothed comb. The plans that back up claims with research provide a competitive edge to those businesses in an increasingly tight credit market.

Finding Sources to Cite

The best practice is to do research before writing a business or marketing plan. Not only is it more ethical and professional, it also makes it much easier to back up the data if the writer knows what information is available beforehand. Some places to check for facts include:

  • Government reports, including demographical data from the US Census Bureau
  • Industry and trade publications
  • The business section of any college or academic library

It is perfectly acceptable to conduct market research specific to the business, as well. A study conducted or commissioned by the subject business should clearly lay out the methods used for gathering data, and the full report should be included as an appendix to the business plan.

Choosing a Citation Method

Various styles of citing sources existing in academia, but there is no generally accepted method for business writing. When deciding how to cite sources, the following tips should be kept in mind:

  • Be appropriate: what method will be easiest for the readers of the business plan?
  • Be consistent: once a method is selected, use the same one throughout the document to avoid confusion.
  • Be convenient: keep footnotes on the same page as the main text whenever possible – avoiding the additional page flipping may increase the likelihood that the plan is read all the way through.

There are three main academic forms of citation, as well as more specialized styles.

  • The Modern Language Association (MLA) format is often used in the humanities.
  • The American Psychological Association (APA) style is common in the social sciences, and is appropriate for plans that cite more technical documents.
  • The University of Chicago Press maintains the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • The Council of Science Editors (CSE) uses a format that is useful for engineering and research firms.
  • Plans that rely upon trends in litigation or intellectual property rights may be well served by using one of the legal citation styles used in court briefs.

In the business world, the specific method of citation is a matter of preference, either the writer’s or the reader’s. The purpose of citing sources in a business plan is to make it clear that the plan is thoroughly researched, and the method selected should leave the reader with no doubt.

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