Skip to Main Content
Skip to Library Help widget

Elementary Education

Empirical Research

What is an Empirical Article?

A research article that reports the results of a study using data derived from actual observation or experimentation rather than 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: Could I 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)

These are the standard parts of an empirical article:

  • Introduction. Sometimes called "literature review" -- what is currently known about the topic -- usually includes a theoretical framework and/or discussion of previous studies
  • Theories/Models
  • Research question/Assertion
  • Method/Methodology. Sometimes called "research design" -- how to recreate the study -- usually describes the population, research process, and analytical tools
  • Results/Findings. 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

Most databases will let you limit your search to articles that are:

  • scholarly
  • academic
  • peer-reviewed
  • refereed

Many, but not all, of these will be empirical studies.

To further focus your search, try adding one of the following terms to your search (try different combinations):

  • study
  • methodology (or method)
  • empirical
  • research
  • findings
  • results
  • participants
  • qualitative or quantitative

Finding Empirical Research in ERIC

ERIC does not have a simple method to locate empirical research. Using "empirical" as a keyword will find some studies, but miss others. One technique is to search for "Research Reports". Use the Advanced Search. Type keywords into search boxes. Under More Search Options, see Document Type and choose Reports: Research

Publication type list

An alternative is to use terminology recommended by the ERIC thesaurus. Some useful keywords are:

  • Action Research
  • Case Studies
  • Ethnography
  • Evaluation Methods
  • Evaluation Research
  • Experiments
  • Focus Groups
  • Field Studies
  • Interviews
  • Mail Surveys
  • Mixed Methods Research
  • Naturalistic Observation
  • Participant Observation
  • Participatory Research
  • Qualitative Research
  • Questionnaires
  • Research
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Statistical Studies
  • Telephone Surveys

Report ADA Problems with Library Services and Resources