Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.


Research hints and tips for the Psychology Program

What is an Empirical Article?

Empirical articles are published in scholarly journals, sometimes called peer-reviewed or refereed journals. The American Psychological Association defines an empirical article as a "Study based on facts, systematic observation, or experiment, rather than theory or general philosophical principle."


Structure of an Empirical Article

Empirical articles may be quantitative, qualitative, or mixed, and are published in peer-reviewed, scholarly journals, meaning that the content, methodology, and analyses of the article are reviewed by other experts in the field. Empirical articles are especially common in the fields of psychology and education, and are usually  structured to include the following components:

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


Example Table of Contents of an Empirical Article

To the left, you will see the table of contents from an article found in the PsycINFO database. Many of the full-text articles found through OneSearch or individual library databases will include a similar TOC which will help you identify the article as empirical.

     Ejiri, M., Kawai, H., Fujiwara, Y., Ihara, K., Watanabe, Y., Hirano, H., Kim, H. K., Ishii, K., Oka, K., & Obuchi, S. (2019). Social participation reduces isolation among Japanese older people in urban area: A 3-year longitudinal study. PLoS ONE, 14(9).


Tips for Locating / Identifying Empirical Articles


1) Limit your search to scholarly journals by selecting the Peer-Reviewed limiter in OneSearch or in a specific database such as PsycINFO, ERIC, or Academic Search Complete.



2) Scan the table of contents for elements common to empirical articles described above and demonstrated in the TOC in the left column. Hint: empirical articles will also tend to be fairly long, e.g., 10+ pages, because they address similar elements.


3) Look for empirical article elements in the article summary or abstract. For example, method, analysis, and results, as well as corresponding data are clearly reflected in the abstract below.



4) Look for additional limiters to help identify empirical articles, such as the Methodology limiter in PsycINFO. Notice also that PsycINFO includes additional granularity underneath the broader methodology heading of Empirical Study.