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Empirical Research Article: What is an Empirical Article?

This guide will help you find empirical research articles in Library databases.

What is an Empirical Article?

As a student at the College of Southern Maryland, faculty may instruct you to read and analyze empirical articles when writing a research paper. How can you recognize an empirical article in an academic discipline? An empirical research article reports research based on actual observation or experiment. The research may use quantitative research methods, which generate numerical data and seek to establish causal relationships between two or more variables.¹ Empirical research articles may use qualitative research methods, which objectively and critically analyze behaviors, beliefs, feelings, or values with few or no numerical data for analysis.²

¹"Quantitative research" A Dictionary of Nursing. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of La Verne. 25 August 2009

²"Qualitative analysis" A Dictionary of Public Health. Ed. John M. Last, Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of La Verne. 25 August 2009

How can I determine if I have found an Empirical Article?

When looking at an article or the abstract of an article, here are some guidelines to use to decide if an article is an empirical article:

  • Is the article published in an academic, scholarly, or professional journal? Popular magazines such as Business Week or Newsweek do not publish empirical articles; academic journals such as Business Communication Quarterly or Journal of Psychology may publish empirical articles. Some professional journals such as JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association publish empirical research. Other professional journals such as Coach & Athletic Director publish articles of professional interest, but they do not usually publish research articles.
  • Does the abstract of the article mention 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, or an interview conducted? All of these terms indicate possible methodologies used in empirical research.
  • Empirical articles normally contain these sections:
       1. Introduction
       2. Literature review
       3. Methodology
       4. Results
       5. Discussion
       6. Conclusion
       7. 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.
  • How long is the article? An empirical article is usually substantial; it is normally three or more pages long.

If you are not sure if an article is an empirical research article, share the article citation and abstract with your professor so you can become better at recognizing the differences between empirical research and other types of scholarly articles.

Empirical Research Articles May Have Research Subjects

Emory University nurse Kathy Parker conducting sleep research. The subject is gospel singer Catrarious 'Tre' Jones. He has renal disease.. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Accessed Jan 18, 2017.

Empirical Research Articles Analyze Research Data

Sleep Log. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Accessed Jan 18, 2017.

Find Empirical Articles in Scholarly Journals



CSM Library gratefully acknowledges the University of La Verne's Wilson Library for permission to adapt and use the material appearing above.