Empirical research, sometimes referred to as "Experimental Research" is based on observed and measured phenomena and derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief.
How do you know if a study is empirical? Read the subheadings within the article, book, or report and look for a description of the research "methodology." Ask yourself: Would it be possible to recreate this study and test these results?
Key characteristics to look for:
- Specific research questions to be answered
- Definition of the population, behavior, or phenomena being studied
- Description of the process used to study this population or phenomena, including selection criteria, controls, and testing instruments (such as surveys)
Another hint: some scholarly journals use a specific layout, called the "IMRaD" format, to communicate empirical research findings. Such articles typically have 4 components:
- Introduction: sometimes called "literature review" -- what is currently known about the topic -- usually includes a theoretical framework and/or discussion of previous studies
- Methodology: sometimes called "research design" -- how to recreate the study -- usually describes the population, research process, and analytical tools
- Results: sometimes called "findings" -- what was learned through the study -- usually appears as statistical data or as substantial quotations from research participants
- Discussion: sometimes called "conclusion" or "implications" -- why the study is important -- usually describes how the research results influence professional practices or future studies
For additional help in deciding if you have a research article, see How to Evaluate Your Article Search Results in 5 Minutes
You may also wish to try a specific concept term in your database searching. Results will vary because each database uses a slightly different vocabulary.
To find empirical articles in PsycINFO:
- Use the "Advanced Search"
- Type your keywords into the search boxes
- Under "Search Options," see "Methodology," and choose "Empirical Study"
- Choosing additional limits, such as publication date or peer-reviewed may be useful
- Click on the "Search" button
- Type your keywords into the search box
- Add and research and statistics to the search
- Click on the search button
Look to the right of the screen to narrow your results to articles available at to you through Booth Library. Click on the Available @ EIU link to access the articles
a Research Guide prepared by Ellysa Cahoy, Education Librarian at Paterno Library, Penn State University
Sage Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods Available online
Also available in print in the Reference Room, 3000 Level, Booth Library Ref. H 62 .L456 2004