Whitburn founded Record Research Inc. in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, in 1970, and put together a team of researchers to examine in detail all of Billboard's music and video charts. Record Research publishes reference books based on data from the various popular music charts and to date has published 112 books, 50 of which are currently in the Record Research catalog. His flagship publication is Top Pop Singles which covers the history of Billboard's popular music charts. Featuring each recording's peak position, date charted, weeks charted, label and information, and trivia on recordings and artists, Whitburn's books are used extensively by the entertainment industry (especially radio DJs) and music fans worldwide. His research extends from 1890 to the present and covers many genres. Whitburn is also the author of the "Top 40 Hits" series of books published by Billboard Books.
Whitburn is an avid collector of phonograph records with one of the world's largest collections in his underground vault. His collection includes a copy of nearly every 78 rpm record, 45 rpm single, LP, and compact disc to appear on the Billboard charts.
In collaboration with Rhino Records, Whitburn has produced over 150 CD compilations of various music styles.