Once you've found a company you're interested in, how do you go about researching it? Let's say you're intrigued by Wookie Cookies Inc. (ticker: CHEWY). Simply give the firm a jingle and ask the investor relations department to send you an investor information package. (They're free!) Say you'd like to receive the most recent annual report, the latest 10-K and 10-Q reports, any recent press releases, and any available analyst reports. Alternatively, you can save a few trees (and a few days) by gathering the information online at sites such as the Fool's Quotes & Research area.

The annual report will probably feature glossy photos of smiling customers (or assorted alien life forms) chomping on cookies. Enjoy the feel-good glossy pages, but wend your way to the back of the report, where the numbers will tell you the real story about the business.

The financial statements there will tell you how quickly sales are growing, how the company is financing its growth, how much profit it's making, and much more. Pay attention to trends, to see if the firm's financial health is improving or declining. Compare the company with its industry peers, too, to see how it stacks up.

Remember that you can improve your chances for success if you're actually a consumer of Wookie Cookies and are familiar with the company's offerings, competitors and competitive position. Also, talk about the business with other investors, perhaps in an investment club.

Don't neglect online resources. Most major companies these days have websites that feature an investor information section, with press releases, financial statements, annual reports, and answers to frequently asked questions (sometimes abbreviated FAQs). Here are examples, from the Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) website, Home Depot (NYSE:HD) website, Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HDI) website, and PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) website.

There's much more to know about how to evaluate companies. Here are a few more resources for you:

To learn more about investing Foolishly, visit our Fool's School.