How to find a ticker symbol
Step #1: Go to Motley Fool CAPS.
Step #2: In the search box up top, type in any portion of a company's name. For instance, type in "aka" or "kam or "akamai" will all take you to a results screen that shows Akamai. This is particularly useful if you didn't know how to spell "Akamai" in the first place. As little as two or three consecutive letters of the name will get you a helpful result.
Step #3: On the search results screen, on the right side, you should find a box listing the full company name you were looking for right alongside the stock's ticker symbol. Voila!
In some cases you may be looking up a company that doesn't have a ticker symbol because either (a) it's a private company that has no publicly traded stock, or (b) it's a subsidiary of a larger company. In the former case, tough luck -- you'll have to wait for the company maybe to go public someday to research it and own it. In the latter case, you'll want to discover the name of the larger public company that holds it.
How to do that? Google it.
For instance, you might want to research and buy stock in Old Navy clothing stores. When you type in "navy" into CAPS search, no results show up. Aha -- must be private or owned by something bigger. Now Google "Old Navy" and visit the company's Website and you'll quickly see it's owned by the Gap. What's Gap's ticker symbol? See Steps #1-#3 above!
In time, we'll build out the wiki further so that you can just type "old navy" into our search and likely discover your answer. Oh, look there, Old Navy has a Wiki page!