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How to Find Articles Based on Empirical Research

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What is Empirical Research?

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

How to Evaluate Your Article Search Results in 5 Minutes - See more at:
Research Concepts
This is a list of concepts related to Empirical or Experimental Research.  Click on the link to read about each concept.  If you need definitions or explanations of additional concepts, please search for the concept in the Sage Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods.


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.
Finding Empirical Research in PsycINFO
PsycINFO indexes articles related to the psychological aspects of fields such as medicine, psychiatry, nursing, sociology, education, pharmacology, technology, linguistics, anthropology, business, law and more.  PsycINFO does offer a specific limit to identify "Empirical Research":

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


PubMed with EIU Electronic Journals
PubMed indexes a wide range of scientific journals related to Biochemistry, Health Care, Medicine, Nursing, Nutrition & Dietetics, Pharmacology, Psychology, and Pre-Clinical Sciences.  The simplest way to locate research articles is to add and research and statistics to your search terms:
  • 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

Finding Empirical Research in ERIC

ERIC indexes reports and articles in all aspects of education, including social aspects of education. ERIC does not have a simple method to locate empirical research. Using "empirical" as a keyword will find some studies, but miss others. "Reports - Research" is a useful,  but general limit.  You will have to investigate the each article to see if it meets empirical research standards.

  • Use the "Advanced Search"
  • Type your keywords into the search boxes
  • Under "More Search Options," see "Publication Type," and choose "Reports - Research"
  • Choosing additional limits, such as publication date, peer-reviewed and Journal article may be useful
  • Click on the "Search" button

"Empirical Research in Education and the Behavioral/Social Sciences"
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