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Resources for education research

Empirical Research

Empirical Research is research that is based on experimentation or observation, i.e. Evidence.  Such research is often conducted to answer a specific question or to test a hypothesis (educated guess).

Research articles that consist of empirical research are written in a specific manner.   They are always divided into the following sections: title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references.  Each of these sections may be further divided into subsections.  One quick way to determine if you are looking at an article that consists of empirical research is to see if it has these sections.

Title – offers a brief description of the research and includes the author(s).

Abstract – is a brief but comprehensive summary of the research, usually a paragraph long. 

Introduction & Literature Review – this section gives background information about the research problem.  It often includes information on similar studies, explains the reason(s) for conducting the research and offers any additional information that might be needed to understand the research problem or research that is being described in the paper.  Sometimes the Introduction section isn’t titled, but it is always present.

Methods – gives a detailed description of how the research was conducted.  Some methods that could be used include surveying, experimentation and observation.  This is occasionally titled Methodology instead.

Results – the ‘answer’ to the research question.  The Results section shows, describes and analyzes the data found by the research.

Discussion – discusses the implications of the results found.  The Discussion section may also compare, contrast and discuss the data obtained to other research articles on similar topics.  It is sometimes called the Conclusion or divided into a ‘Discussion’ section and a ‘Conclusion’ section.

References – is a list of citations for other books, journal articles, reports or studies mentioned in the article. Sometimes called Works Cited or Bibliography.

Identifying Empirical Research

 Various phrases or keywords can identify articles that use empirical or qualitative research.  These include:

- Analysis

 - Subjects

- Sample size

 - Measure or measurement(s)

- Outcomes

 - Qualitative Research

- Usage 

 - Findings

- Statistics

 - Results

- Survey

 - Methodology

- Data

 - Original study

- Experiment 

 - Research study


Information adapted from UNC-Charlotte Libraries Sociology Research Guide.

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