Sunday, June 12, 2005

JW, analyst reports, and documentalism

As I continue my quest for information on John Wiley and Sons I've decided to turn to their finanical info. At the very least, in the financial world I can use a much shorter title: JW (their NYSE ticker symbol). Courtesy of Gale, I have access to a number of analyst reports on JW. Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) wrote a particularly complete report when they initiated coverage in 2002. The 46-page report is completely useless but incredibly interesting. It talks of goals and expectations, history and future, and--above all--predictions. To develop credibility in their work CSFB drops all sorts of graphs and formulae which resemble alchemy to my unconditioned eyes. By looking to analyst reports for insight on the mysterious documentary form of technical handbooks it seems that I've stumbled across yet another one: the anlyst report.

Several years ago I wrote some short pieces about the analyst report as text but I didn't have the background to give it a rigorous treatment. Given the predominance of the analyst report in financial circles it would see that these things carry a great deal of authority. Their history, however, is rather dark. Turning to the OPAC of my trusty local academic library I came across only three works with the subject code of "securities--research". It seems this code is similarly undersubscribed the Library of Congress since only five titles make the cut, and one is simply a new edition of one of the other four. These four works represent a nice spread across time and would make for a very interesting discourse analysis:

- Hooke, Jeffrey C. (1999). Security analysis on Wall Street: a comprehensive guide to - today's valuation methods.
- National Bureau of Economic Research (1946). Research in securities markets.
- National Bureau of Economic Research (1954). Research in capital and securities markets.
- And something in Japanese!

Of course, there a whole pile of works within "Investment analysis" but the focus seems to be a bit different. The TSE's Setting analyst standards : recommendations for the supervision and practice of Canadian securities industry analysts : Securities Industry Committee on Analyst Standards final report may be worth a read.

I seem to recall seeing some academic research on a similar topic, particularly in the journal Accounting, Organizations, and Society. The reference lists may be valuable:

- McKinstry, S. (1996). Designing the annual reports of Burton PLC from 1930 to 1994. AOS 21.1: 89-111
- Preston, A., Wright, C., Young, J. (1996). Imag[in]ing annual reports. AOS 21.1: 113-137
- Graves, O.F., Flesher, D.L., Jordan, R.E. (1996). Pictures and the bottom line: the television epistemology of U.S. annual reports. AOS 21.1: 57-88
- Neu, D., Warsame, H., Pedwell, K. (1998). Managing public impressions: environmental disclosures in annual reports. AOS 23.3: 265-282
- Vergoossen, R.G.A. (1997). Changes in accounting policies and investment anlysts' fixation on accounting figures. AOS 22.6: 589-607.

Hold the press! Someone may have already been there (recently):

Fogarty, T.L., Rogers, R.K. (2005). Financial analysts' reports: an extended institutional theory of evaluation. ASO 30.4: 331-356.

I'll have to see what their take is. The reference list is pretty trippy--and I thought my research was wierd. Other than some old standards (Abbott, Freidson, Giddens, Mintzberg, Weick) the authors seem to be very domain specific. The number of titles in the reference list with word "information" in the title is particularly alarming. A deflationary documentalist analysis of the same subject may be in order... at some other time far in the future when all of my current projects are completed.

In their introduction, Fogarty and Rogers introduce the "bible of analysis", Graham and Dodd's Security Analysis--another good target for discourse analysis. First published in 1934, the work has been updated a number of times. The most recent edition in my library is from 1988. However, the early editions seem to be quite popular. Suprisingly, the 1934 edition is still stored in the stacks and is currently out. Judging by the prolonged return date, it seems that some Professor/PhD type is currently using it for some reason. Both the 1934 and the 1940 edition are also available as new paperbacks from McGraw-Hill, and can be had in 24-hours from Amazon.com.

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