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What is an Empirical Study?

An empirical study reports the findings from a study that uses data derived from an actual experiment or observation.

Key components of an empirical study:

  • Abstract - Provides a brief overview of the research.
  • Introduction - The introduction contextualizes the research by providing a review of previous research on the topic. It also is the section where the hypothesis is stated. 
  • Method - The methods area describes how the research was conducted, including the design of the study, who the participants were and what they did, and any measurements that were taken during the study.
  • Results - The results section describes the outcome of the study. 
  • Discussion - The discussion section addresses the researchers' interpretations of their study and any future implications from their findings.
  • References - A list of works that were cited in the study.

Where to Look for Empirical Studies

Try searching in the following databases for empirical studies in education:

Find Empirical Studies: APA PsycINFO & APA PsycARTICLES

There are a few strategies you can use to limit your search results to empirical studies within education and related disciplines. 

Two of our databases, APA PsycINFO and APA PsycARTICLES offer the option to limit search results to a specific methodology, including empirical studies. The methodology search facet is located on the advanced search page for APA PsycINFO and APA PsycARTICLES near the bottom of the page:

PsycINFO advanced search page with "Empirical Study" selected under the Methodology search facet.

Find Empirical Studies: ERIC

ERIC (ProQuest) doesn't have an easy way to search for empirical studies. You can try adding "empirical" into your search terms or you can try limiting your search results to research reports by completing the following steps:

  • Use the "Advanced Search" page
  • Type in your search terms
  • Scroll down the page to "Document Type" and select "143: Reports- Research"
  • Click "Search"

Document Type facet in ERIC. 143: Reports - Research is selected.


Another strategy for finding empirical studies is to add different combinations of the following search terms: 

  • empirical
  • study
  • methodology (or method)
  • action research
  • interviews
  • participant observation OR participants
  • findings
  • results
  • qualitative or quantitative