A research note is a statement from a brokerage firm or other investment advisory service discussing a specific security, industry, market or news item. Research notes are usually meant to contain time-sensitive information that applies to the current day's trading session or some event in the near future.
Research notes can have several other names. Often they may be called a flash report or desk report. Different names come and go out of style.
Research notes are often short in length (only a few paragraphs is common) and may make reference to an existing and more thorough investment call to buy or sell a security. Research notes are also often used to advise clients to change their tactics and take a different course of action, along with the firm's reasons for this advice.
Depending on the issuing firm, research notes may only be released to existing or prospective clients, and not to the general public. Many of them make their way into the public domain quickly, even later in the same trading day.
Research notes often toe a thin line between genuine security research and marketing materials. Although they're generally intended to 'educate' investors, because there's no standard definition, it can be hard to separate good advice from a sales tactic, at times.
The proliferation of electronic sources, blogs and commentators has further added to the deluge in financial information sharing. Entities supplying research notes to clients can be careful not to disadvantage certain classes of investors at the expense of another group. For instance, although not clearly illegal, it may not look good to pass your best customers select information before others. It would be nearly impossible to share every piece of financial information with all investors at the same time. In this instance, financial companies will offer a tiered services structure so investors can select the level of services which best meet their needs.
Long-term investors do not need or request information daily; while more active investors will prefer to pay higher fees for greater access.