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PSY 1010

General Psychology

What is an Empirical Article?

An empirical research article reports research based on actual observation or experiment. The research may use quantitative or qualitative research methods. 

  • Quantitative Research uses numerical data to try to establish causal relationships between variables (“Based on 100 interactions, A causes B.”) 

  • Qualitative Research objectively and critically analyzes behaviors, beliefs, feelings, or other values (“People suffering from Illness A tend to be more cautious.”)

Database Tools

When searching for empirical research articles, use database tools and extra keywords to help narrow your search.

Database Tools

  • Limit search to "Full Text" and "Peer Reviewed"

  • Limit search by source type (“Academic Journals” or “Scholarly Journals”) 

Empirical Research Keywords

In addition to keywords for your topic, use words or phrases such as:

  • “study” or “studies” 

    • “longitudinal study” 

  • “research” 

  • “observation” 

  • “survey” 

  • “experiment” 

  • “findings” 

  • “subjects” or “participants” 

    • “participant group” 


For more help with database searching and keywords, check out the Research Help library guide.

How to Identify an Empirical Article


What type of source is your article published in?

  • Popular Magazines (Time, People, Psychology Today, WebMD, etc.): usually NOT empirical

  • Journals (Academic, Scholarly, Peer-reviewed, Professional): sometimes YES


An abstract is a brief summary or overview of the article. Abstracts for empirical research articles:

  • May describe a study, observation, or analysis 

  • May mention participants or subjects, data, surveys, questionnaires, assessments, interviews, or other measurements 


Empirical articles (and scholarly articles in general) are usually at least 5 pages (often up to 20 pages long).

Article Sections

Empirical articles may include headings or subheadings for sections such as:

  • Introduction

  • Literature Review 

  • Methodology or Methods

  • Results

  • Discussion

  • Conclusion

  • References

Data & Analysis

Empirical research articles often include some sort of (quantitative and/or qualitative) data. This may be included in the article as charts, tables, graphs, or appendices.


Note: If you are not sure if an article is an empirical research article, share the article citation and abstract with your professor. This can help you to become better at recognizing the differences between empirical research and other types of scholarly articles, and also ensures your article is acceptable for the assignment.

Empirical Research Articles [VIDEO]

Empirical Research Article: Example with Annotations