Answered By: Nicole Montgomery
Last Updated: Jun 07, 2018     Views: 62

What are Empirical Research Articles?

screenshot from an empirical article

Empirical Research is defined as research based on observed and measured phenomena.  It is research that derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief.

Requests for "Empirical" articles are usually from instructors in Education or Psychology; most other disciplines will ask for Scholarly, Peer Reviewed or Primary literature.

See if the article mentions a study, an observation, an analysis or a number of participants or subjects. Was data collected, a survey or questionnaire administered, an assessment or measurement used, an interview conducted? All of these terms indicate possible methodologies used in empirical research.

 Empirical articles often contain these sections:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References

The sections may be combined, and may have different headings or no headings at all; however, the information that would fall within these sections should be present in an empirical article.

Try using the Methodology limiter in PsycINFO or PscyhARTICLES to find empirical research articles.

screen shot from ebsco PsycInfo database methodology limiterAfter entering search terms in boxes at top of screen, scroll down to Methodology and select: Empirical Study.

Note there are subsets of Empirical Study that may be helpful to you.


Try using specific keywords in other library databases.

When using other databases, such as  Academic Search Complete or Education Research Complete, try entering your search terms and then paste this string of terms into another search box:

study OR methodology OR subjects OR data OR results OR findings OR discussion

and change the pull down to "Abstract".

Below is an example search for child abuse using  Academic Search Complete:

Academic Search Complete showing settings for a search for empirical articles


Look over the articles you get from searches carefully. The final determination of whether or not a particular article is empirical is a judgment that you must make. Also, some of the search devices mentioned here may not retrieve all of the empirical articles for a given topic.



This FAQ answer is based on Cal Poly Poloma Library's FAQ "My instructor said that I needed to find "Empirical" articles. What should I do?" and Empirical Journal Articles: How to Find Articles that Report Empirical Studies
(Cal State Fullerton) original version | new version and What is an Empirical Article? (Univ of LaVerne)


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