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What are empirical articles? How do I locate them in the Library?

An empirical article contains research based on observation and experience as opposed to belief or theory. For a more comprehensive definition of empiricism, see this encyclopedia entry in The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods (Given, 2008). 

To identify whether you have an empirical article, look for any mention of a study or an observation, if a survey or questionnaire was administered, data collected, measurement or assessment used, or an interview conducted.

Empirical articles will often contain the following sections:

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

To locate empirical articles through the Library, you may use the APA PsycInfo or APA PsycArticles databases. Both databases allow you to limit to “empirical study” within the Methodology search limiter under Search Options.

PsycARTICLES screenshot with Empirical Study selected under Methodology.Other Library databases like SAGE Journals Online, Wiley Online Library, and ScienceDirect contain scholarly journals which publish primarily empirical articles.

You may also try a NavigatorSearch (formerly Roadrunner) and add the following search string to your search:

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

Evaluate any resources you find within NavigatorSearch (formerly Roadrunner) and these databases using the criteria provided in this FAQ to determine whether it is an empirical article.

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