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empirical research questions examples

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Empirical Research: Definition, Methods, Types and Examples

What is Empirical Research

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Empirical research: Definition

Empirical research: origin, quantitative research methods, qualitative research methods, steps for conducting empirical research, empirical research methodology cycle, advantages of empirical research, disadvantages of empirical research, why is there a need for empirical research.

Empirical research is defined as any research where conclusions of the study is strictly drawn from concretely empirical evidence, and therefore “verifiable” evidence.

This empirical evidence can be gathered using quantitative market research and  qualitative market research  methods.

For example: A research is being conducted to find out if listening to happy music in the workplace while working may promote creativity? An experiment is conducted by using a music website survey on a set of audience who are exposed to happy music and another set who are not listening to music at all, and the subjects are then observed. The results derived from such a research will give empirical evidence if it does promote creativity or not.

LEARN ABOUT: Behavioral Research

You must have heard the quote” I will not believe it unless I see it”. This came from the ancient empiricists, a fundamental understanding that powered the emergence of medieval science during the renaissance period and laid the foundation of modern science, as we know it today. The word itself has its roots in greek. It is derived from the greek word empeirikos which means “experienced”.

In today’s world, the word empirical refers to collection of data using evidence that is collected through observation or experience or by using calibrated scientific instruments. All of the above origins have one thing in common which is dependence of observation and experiments to collect data and test them to come up with conclusions.

LEARN ABOUT: Causal Research

Types and methodologies of empirical research

Empirical research can be conducted and analysed using qualitative or quantitative methods.

  • Quantitative research : Quantitative research methods are used to gather information through numerical data. It is used to quantify opinions, behaviors or other defined variables . These are predetermined and are in a more structured format. Some of the commonly used methods are survey, longitudinal studies, polls, etc
  • Qualitative research:   Qualitative research methods are used to gather non numerical data.  It is used to find meanings, opinions, or the underlying reasons from its subjects. These methods are unstructured or semi structured. The sample size for such a research is usually small and it is a conversational type of method to provide more insight or in-depth information about the problem Some of the most popular forms of methods are focus groups, experiments, interviews, etc.

Data collected from these will need to be analysed. Empirical evidence can also be analysed either quantitatively and qualitatively. Using this, the researcher can answer empirical questions which have to be clearly defined and answerable with the findings he has got. The type of research design used will vary depending on the field in which it is going to be used. Many of them might choose to do a collective research involving quantitative and qualitative method to better answer questions which cannot be studied in a laboratory setting.

LEARN ABOUT: Qualitative Research Questions and Questionnaires

Quantitative research methods aid in analyzing the empirical evidence gathered. By using these a researcher can find out if his hypothesis is supported or not.

  • Survey research: Survey research generally involves a large audience to collect a large amount of data. This is a quantitative method having a predetermined set of closed questions which are pretty easy to answer. Because of the simplicity of such a method, high responses are achieved. It is one of the most commonly used methods for all kinds of research in today’s world.

Previously, surveys were taken face to face only with maybe a recorder. However, with advancement in technology and for ease, new mediums such as emails , or social media have emerged.

For example: Depletion of energy resources is a growing concern and hence there is a need for awareness about renewable energy. According to recent studies, fossil fuels still account for around 80% of energy consumption in the United States. Even though there is a rise in the use of green energy every year, there are certain parameters because of which the general population is still not opting for green energy. In order to understand why, a survey can be conducted to gather opinions of the general population about green energy and the factors that influence their choice of switching to renewable energy. Such a survey can help institutions or governing bodies to promote appropriate awareness and incentive schemes to push the use of greener energy.

Learn more: Renewable Energy Survey Template Descriptive Research vs Correlational Research

  • Experimental research: In experimental research , an experiment is set up and a hypothesis is tested by creating a situation in which one of the variable is manipulated. This is also used to check cause and effect. It is tested to see what happens to the independent variable if the other one is removed or altered. The process for such a method is usually proposing a hypothesis, experimenting on it, analyzing the findings and reporting the findings to understand if it supports the theory or not.

For example: A particular product company is trying to find what is the reason for them to not be able to capture the market. So the organisation makes changes in each one of the processes like manufacturing, marketing, sales and operations. Through the experiment they understand that sales training directly impacts the market coverage for their product. If the person is trained well, then the product will have better coverage.

  • Correlational research: Correlational research is used to find relation between two set of variables . Regression analysis is generally used to predict outcomes of such a method. It can be positive, negative or neutral correlation.

LEARN ABOUT: Level of Analysis

For example: Higher educated individuals will get higher paying jobs. This means higher education enables the individual to high paying job and less education will lead to lower paying jobs.

  • Longitudinal study: Longitudinal study is used to understand the traits or behavior of a subject under observation after repeatedly testing the subject over a period of time. Data collected from such a method can be qualitative or quantitative in nature.

For example: A research to find out benefits of exercise. The target is asked to exercise everyday for a particular period of time and the results show higher endurance, stamina, and muscle growth. This supports the fact that exercise benefits an individual body.

  • Cross sectional: Cross sectional study is an observational type of method, in which a set of audience is observed at a given point in time. In this type, the set of people are chosen in a fashion which depicts similarity in all the variables except the one which is being researched. This type does not enable the researcher to establish a cause and effect relationship as it is not observed for a continuous time period. It is majorly used by healthcare sector or the retail industry.

For example: A medical study to find the prevalence of under-nutrition disorders in kids of a given population. This will involve looking at a wide range of parameters like age, ethnicity, location, incomes  and social backgrounds. If a significant number of kids coming from poor families show under-nutrition disorders, the researcher can further investigate into it. Usually a cross sectional study is followed by a longitudinal study to find out the exact reason.

  • Causal-Comparative research : This method is based on comparison. It is mainly used to find out cause-effect relationship between two variables or even multiple variables.

For example: A researcher measured the productivity of employees in a company which gave breaks to the employees during work and compared that to the employees of the company which did not give breaks at all.

LEARN ABOUT: Action Research

Some research questions need to be analysed qualitatively, as quantitative methods are not applicable there. In many cases, in-depth information is needed or a researcher may need to observe a target audience behavior, hence the results needed are in a descriptive analysis form. Qualitative research results will be descriptive rather than predictive. It enables the researcher to build or support theories for future potential quantitative research. In such a situation qualitative research methods are used to derive a conclusion to support the theory or hypothesis being studied.

LEARN ABOUT: Qualitative Interview

  • Case study: Case study method is used to find more information through carefully analyzing existing cases. It is very often used for business research or to gather empirical evidence for investigation purpose. It is a method to investigate a problem within its real life context through existing cases. The researcher has to carefully analyse making sure the parameter and variables in the existing case are the same as to the case that is being investigated. Using the findings from the case study, conclusions can be drawn regarding the topic that is being studied.

For example: A report mentioning the solution provided by a company to its client. The challenges they faced during initiation and deployment, the findings of the case and solutions they offered for the problems. Such case studies are used by most companies as it forms an empirical evidence for the company to promote in order to get more business.

  • Observational method:   Observational method is a process to observe and gather data from its target. Since it is a qualitative method it is time consuming and very personal. It can be said that observational research method is a part of ethnographic research which is also used to gather empirical evidence. This is usually a qualitative form of research, however in some cases it can be quantitative as well depending on what is being studied.

For example: setting up a research to observe a particular animal in the rain-forests of amazon. Such a research usually take a lot of time as observation has to be done for a set amount of time to study patterns or behavior of the subject. Another example used widely nowadays is to observe people shopping in a mall to figure out buying behavior of consumers.

  • One-on-one interview: Such a method is purely qualitative and one of the most widely used. The reason being it enables a researcher get precise meaningful data if the right questions are asked. It is a conversational method where in-depth data can be gathered depending on where the conversation leads.

For example: A one-on-one interview with the finance minister to gather data on financial policies of the country and its implications on the public.

  • Focus groups: Focus groups are used when a researcher wants to find answers to why, what and how questions. A small group is generally chosen for such a method and it is not necessary to interact with the group in person. A moderator is generally needed in case the group is being addressed in person. This is widely used by product companies to collect data about their brands and the product.

For example: A mobile phone manufacturer wanting to have a feedback on the dimensions of one of their models which is yet to be launched. Such studies help the company meet the demand of the customer and position their model appropriately in the market.

  • Text analysis: Text analysis method is a little new compared to the other types. Such a method is used to analyse social life by going through images or words used by the individual. In today’s world, with social media playing a major part of everyone’s life, such a method enables the research to follow the pattern that relates to his study.

For example: A lot of companies ask for feedback from the customer in detail mentioning how satisfied are they with their customer support team. Such data enables the researcher to take appropriate decisions to make their support team better.

Sometimes a combination of the methods is also needed for some questions that cannot be answered using only one type of method especially when a researcher needs to gain a complete understanding of complex subject matter.

We recently published a blog that talks about examples of qualitative data in education ; why don’t you check it out for more ideas?

Since empirical research is based on observation and capturing experiences, it is important to plan the steps to conduct the experiment and how to analyse it. This will enable the researcher to resolve problems or obstacles which can occur during the experiment.

Step #1: Define the purpose of the research

This is the step where the researcher has to answer questions like what exactly do I want to find out? What is the problem statement? Are there any issues in terms of the availability of knowledge, data, time or resources. Will this research be more beneficial than what it will cost.

Before going ahead, a researcher has to clearly define his purpose for the research and set up a plan to carry out further tasks.

Step #2 : Supporting theories and relevant literature

The researcher needs to find out if there are theories which can be linked to his research problem . He has to figure out if any theory can help him support his findings. All kind of relevant literature will help the researcher to find if there are others who have researched this before, or what are the problems faced during this research. The researcher will also have to set up assumptions and also find out if there is any history regarding his research problem

Step #3: Creation of Hypothesis and measurement

Before beginning the actual research he needs to provide himself a working hypothesis or guess what will be the probable result. Researcher has to set up variables, decide the environment for the research and find out how can he relate between the variables.

Researcher will also need to define the units of measurements, tolerable degree for errors, and find out if the measurement chosen will be acceptable by others.

Step #4: Methodology, research design and data collection

In this step, the researcher has to define a strategy for conducting his research. He has to set up experiments to collect data which will enable him to propose the hypothesis. The researcher will decide whether he will need experimental or non experimental method for conducting the research. The type of research design will vary depending on the field in which the research is being conducted. Last but not the least, the researcher will have to find out parameters that will affect the validity of the research design. Data collection will need to be done by choosing appropriate samples depending on the research question. To carry out the research, he can use one of the many sampling techniques. Once data collection is complete, researcher will have empirical data which needs to be analysed.

LEARN ABOUT: Best Data Collection Tools

Step #5: Data Analysis and result

Data analysis can be done in two ways, qualitatively and quantitatively. Researcher will need to find out what qualitative method or quantitative method will be needed or will he need a combination of both. Depending on the unit of analysis of his data, he will know if his hypothesis is supported or rejected. Analyzing this data is the most important part to support his hypothesis.

Step #6: Conclusion

A report will need to be made with the findings of the research. The researcher can give the theories and literature that support his research. He can make suggestions or recommendations for further research on his topic.

Empirical research methodology cycle

A.D. de Groot, a famous dutch psychologist and a chess expert conducted some of the most notable experiments using chess in the 1940’s. During his study, he came up with a cycle which is consistent and now widely used to conduct empirical research. It consists of 5 phases with each phase being as important as the next one. The empirical cycle captures the process of coming up with hypothesis about how certain subjects work or behave and then testing these hypothesis against empirical data in a systematic and rigorous approach. It can be said that it characterizes the deductive approach to science. Following is the empirical cycle.

  • Observation: At this phase an idea is sparked for proposing a hypothesis. During this phase empirical data is gathered using observation. For example: a particular species of flower bloom in a different color only during a specific season.
  • Induction: Inductive reasoning is then carried out to form a general conclusion from the data gathered through observation. For example: As stated above it is observed that the species of flower blooms in a different color during a specific season. A researcher may ask a question “does the temperature in the season cause the color change in the flower?” He can assume that is the case, however it is a mere conjecture and hence an experiment needs to be set up to support this hypothesis. So he tags a few set of flowers kept at a different temperature and observes if they still change the color?
  • Deduction: This phase helps the researcher to deduce a conclusion out of his experiment. This has to be based on logic and rationality to come up with specific unbiased results.For example: In the experiment, if the tagged flowers in a different temperature environment do not change the color then it can be concluded that temperature plays a role in changing the color of the bloom.
  • Testing: This phase involves the researcher to return to empirical methods to put his hypothesis to the test. The researcher now needs to make sense of his data and hence needs to use statistical analysis plans to determine the temperature and bloom color relationship. If the researcher finds out that most flowers bloom a different color when exposed to the certain temperature and the others do not when the temperature is different, he has found support to his hypothesis. Please note this not proof but just a support to his hypothesis.
  • Evaluation: This phase is generally forgotten by most but is an important one to keep gaining knowledge. During this phase the researcher puts forth the data he has collected, the support argument and his conclusion. The researcher also states the limitations for the experiment and his hypothesis and suggests tips for others to pick it up and continue a more in-depth research for others in the future. LEARN MORE: Population vs Sample

LEARN MORE: Population vs Sample

There is a reason why empirical research is one of the most widely used method. There are a few advantages associated with it. Following are a few of them.

  • It is used to authenticate traditional research through various experiments and observations.
  • This research methodology makes the research being conducted more competent and authentic.
  • It enables a researcher understand the dynamic changes that can happen and change his strategy accordingly.
  • The level of control in such a research is high so the researcher can control multiple variables.
  • It plays a vital role in increasing internal validity .

Even though empirical research makes the research more competent and authentic, it does have a few disadvantages. Following are a few of them.

  • Such a research needs patience as it can be very time consuming. The researcher has to collect data from multiple sources and the parameters involved are quite a few, which will lead to a time consuming research.
  • Most of the time, a researcher will need to conduct research at different locations or in different environments, this can lead to an expensive affair.
  • There are a few rules in which experiments can be performed and hence permissions are needed. Many a times, it is very difficult to get certain permissions to carry out different methods of this research.
  • Collection of data can be a problem sometimes, as it has to be collected from a variety of sources through different methods.

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Empirical research is important in today’s world because most people believe in something only that they can see, hear or experience. It is used to validate multiple hypothesis and increase human knowledge and continue doing it to keep advancing in various fields.

For example: Pharmaceutical companies use empirical research to try out a specific drug on controlled groups or random groups to study the effect and cause. This way, they prove certain theories they had proposed for the specific drug. Such research is very important as sometimes it can lead to finding a cure for a disease that has existed for many years. It is useful in science and many other fields like history, social sciences, business, etc.

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With the advancement in today’s world, empirical research has become critical and a norm in many fields to support their hypothesis and gain more knowledge. The methods mentioned above are very useful for carrying out such research. However, a number of new methods will keep coming up as the nature of new investigative questions keeps getting unique or changing.

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Introduction to Empirical Research

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  • Introductory Video This video covers what empirical research is, what kinds of questions and methods empirical researchers use, and some tips for finding empirical research articles in your discipline.

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  • Study on radiation transfer in human skin for cosmetics
  • Long-Term Mobile Phone Use and the Risk of Vestibular Schwannoma: A Danish Nationwide Cohort Study
  • Emissions Impacts and Benefits of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Vehicle-to-Grid Services
  • Review of design considerations and technological challenges for successful development and deployment of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
  • Endocrine disrupters and human health: could oestrogenic chemicals in body care cosmetics adversely affect breast cancer incidence in women?

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2.2 Generating Good Research Questions

Learning objectives.

  • Describe some common sources of research ideas and generate research ideas using those sources.
  • Describe some techniques for turning research ideas into empirical research questions and use those techniques to generate questions.
  • Explain what makes a research question interesting and evaluate research questions in terms of their interestingness.

Good research must begin with a good research question. Yet coming up with good research questions is something that novice researchers often find difficult and stressful. One reason is that this is a creative process that can appear mysterious—even magical—with experienced researchers seeming to pull interesting research questions out of thin air. However, psychological research on creativity has shown that it is neither as mysterious nor as magical as it appears. It is largely the product of ordinary thinking strategies and persistence (Weisberg, 1993). This section covers some fairly simple strategies for finding general research ideas, turning those ideas into empirically testable research questions, and finally evaluating those questions in terms of how interesting they are and how feasible they would be to answer.

Finding Inspiration

Research questions often begin as more general research ideas—usually focusing on some behavior or psychological characteristic: talkativeness, memory for touches, depression, bungee jumping, and so on. Before looking at how to turn such ideas into empirically testable research questions, it is worth looking at where such ideas come from in the first place. Three of the most common sources of inspiration are informal observations, practical problems, and previous research.

Informal observations include direct observations of our own and others’ behavior as well as secondhand observations from nonscientific sources such as newspapers, books, and so on. For example, you might notice that you always seem to be in the slowest moving line at the grocery store. Could it be that most people think the same thing? Or you might read in the local newspaper about people donating money and food to a local family whose house has burned down and begin to wonder about who makes such donations and why. Some of the most famous research in psychology has been inspired by informal observations. Stanley Milgram’s famous research on obedience, for example, was inspired in part by journalistic reports of the trials of accused Nazi war criminals—many of whom claimed that they were only obeying orders. This led him to wonder about the extent to which ordinary people will commit immoral acts simply because they are ordered to do so by an authority figure (Milgram, 1963).

Practical problems can also inspire research ideas, leading directly to applied research in such domains as law, health, education, and sports. Can human figure drawings help children remember details about being physically or sexually abused? How effective is psychotherapy for depression compared to drug therapy? To what extent do cell phones impair people’s driving ability? How can we teach children to read more efficiently? What is the best mental preparation for running a marathon?

Probably the most common inspiration for new research ideas, however, is previous research. Recall that science is a kind of large-scale collaboration in which many different researchers read and evaluate each other’s work and conduct new studies to build on it. Of course, experienced researchers are familiar with previous research in their area of expertise and probably have a long list of ideas. This suggests that novice researchers can find inspiration by consulting with a more experienced researcher (e.g., students can consult a faculty member). But they can also find inspiration by picking up a copy of almost any professional journal and reading the titles and abstracts. In one typical issue of Psychological Science , for example, you can find articles on the perception of shapes, anti-Semitism, police lineups, the meaning of death, second-language learning, people who seek negative emotional experiences, and many other topics. If you can narrow your interests down to a particular topic (e.g., memory) or domain (e.g., health care), you can also look through more specific journals, such as Memory & Cognition or Health Psychology .

Generating Empirically Testable Research Questions

Once you have a research idea, you need to use it to generate one or more empirically testable research questions, that is, questions expressed in terms of a single variable or relationship between variables. One way to do this is to look closely at the discussion section in a recent research article on the topic. This is the last major section of the article, in which the researchers summarize their results, interpret them in the context of past research, and suggest directions for future research. These suggestions often take the form of specific research questions, which you can then try to answer with additional research. This can be a good strategy because it is likely that the suggested questions have already been identified as interesting and important by experienced researchers.

But you may also want to generate your own research questions. How can you do this? First, if you have a particular behavior or psychological characteristic in mind, you can simply conceptualize it as a variable and ask how frequent or intense it is. How many words on average do people speak per day? How accurate are children’s memories of being touched? What percentage of people have sought professional help for depression? If the question has never been studied scientifically—which is something that you will learn in your literature review—then it might be interesting and worth pursuing.

If scientific research has already answered the question of how frequent or intense the behavior or characteristic is, then you should consider turning it into a question about a statistical relationship between that behavior or characteristic and some other variable. One way to do this is to ask yourself the following series of more general questions and write down all the answers you can think of.

  • What are some possible causes of the behavior or characteristic?
  • What are some possible effects of the behavior or characteristic?
  • What types of people might exhibit more or less of the behavior or characteristic?
  • What types of situations might elicit more or less of the behavior or characteristic?

In general, each answer you write down can be conceptualized as a second variable, suggesting a question about a statistical relationship. If you were interested in talkativeness, for example, it might occur to you that a possible cause of this psychological characteristic is family size. Is there a statistical relationship between family size and talkativeness? Or it might occur to you that people seem to be more talkative in same-sex groups than mixed-sex groups. Is there a difference in the average level of talkativeness of people in same-sex groups and people in mixed-sex groups? This approach should allow you to generate many different empirically testable questions about almost any behavior or psychological characteristic.

If through this process you generate a question that has never been studied scientifically—which again is something that you will learn in your literature review—then it might be interesting and worth pursuing. But what if you find that it has been studied scientifically? Although novice researchers often want to give up and move on to a new question at this point, this is not necessarily a good strategy. For one thing, the fact that the question has been studied scientifically and the research published suggests that it is of interest to the scientific community. For another, the question can almost certainly be refined so that its answer will still contribute something new to the research literature. Again, asking yourself a series of more general questions about the statistical relationship is a good strategy.

  • Are there other ways to operationally define the variables?
  • Are there types of people for whom the statistical relationship might be stronger or weaker?
  • Are there situations in which the statistical relationship might be stronger or weaker—including situations with practical importance?

For example, research has shown that women and men speak about the same number of words per day—but this was when talkativeness was measured in terms of the number of words spoken per day among college students in the United States and Mexico. We can still ask whether other ways of measuring talkativeness—perhaps the number of different people spoken to each day—produce the same result. Or we can ask whether studying elderly people or people from other cultures produces the same result. Again, this approach should help you generate many different research questions about almost any statistical relationship.

Evaluating Research Questions

Researchers usually generate many more research questions than they ever attempt to answer. This means they must have some way of evaluating the research questions they generate so that they can choose which ones to pursue. In this section, we consider two criteria for evaluating research questions: the interestingness of the question and the feasibility of answering it.


How often do people tie their shoes? Do people feel pain when you punch them in the jaw? Are women more likely to wear makeup than men? Do people prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream? Although it would be a fairly simple matter to design a study and collect data to answer these questions, you probably would not want to because they are not interesting. We are not talking here about whether a research question is interesting to us personally but whether it is interesting to people more generally and, especially, to the scientific community. But what makes a research question interesting in this sense? Here we look at three factors that affect the interestingness of a research question: the answer is in doubt, the answer fills a gap in the research literature, and the answer has important practical implications.

First, a research question is interesting to the extent that its answer is in doubt. Obviously, questions that have been answered by scientific research are no longer interesting as the subject of new empirical research. But the fact that a question has not been answered by scientific research does not necessarily make it interesting. There has to be some reasonable chance that the answer to the question will be something that we did not already know. But how can you assess this before actually collecting data? One approach is to try to think of reasons to expect different answers to the question—especially ones that seem to conflict with common sense. If you can think of reasons to expect at least two different answers, then the question might be interesting. If you can think of reasons to expect only one answer, then it probably is not. The question of whether women are more talkative than men is interesting because there are reasons to expect both answers. The existence of the stereotype itself suggests the answer could be yes, but the fact that women’s and men’s verbal abilities are fairly similar suggests the answer could be no. The question of whether people feel pain when you punch them in the jaw is not interesting because there is absolutely no reason to think that the answer could be anything other than a resounding yes.

A second important factor to consider when deciding if a research question is interesting is whether answering it will fill a gap in the research literature. Again, this means in part that the question has not already been answered by scientific research. But it also means that the question is in some sense a natural one for people who are familiar with the research literature. For example, the question of whether human figure drawings can help children recall touch information would be likely to occur to anyone who was familiar with research on the unreliability of eyewitness memory (especially in children) and the ineffectiveness of some alternative interviewing techniques.

A final factor to consider when deciding whether a research question is interesting is whether its answer has important practical implications. Again, the question of whether human figure drawings help children recall information about being touched has important implications for how children are interviewed in physical and sexual abuse cases. The question of whether cell phone use impairs driving is interesting because it is relevant to the personal safety of everyone who travels by car and to the debate over whether cell phone use should be restricted by law.


A second important criterion for evaluating research questions is the feasibility of successfully answering them. There are many factors that affect feasibility, including time, money, equipment and materials, technical knowledge and skill, and access to research participants. Clearly, researchers need to take these factors into account so that they do not waste time and effort pursuing research that they cannot complete successfully.

Looking through a sample of professional journals in psychology will reveal many studies that are complicated and difficult to carry out. These include longitudinal designs in which participants are tracked over many years, neuroimaging studies in which participants’ brain activity is measured while they carry out various mental tasks, and complex nonexperimental studies involving several variables and complicated statistical analyses. Keep in mind, though, that such research tends to be carried out by teams of highly trained researchers whose work is often supported in part by government and private grants. Keep in mind also that research does not have to be complicated or difficult to produce interesting and important results. Looking through a sample of professional journals will also reveal studies that are relatively simple and easy to carry out—perhaps involving a convenience sample of college students and a paper-and-pencil task.

A final point here is that it is generally good practice to use methods that have already been used successfully by other researchers. For example, if you want to manipulate people’s moods to make some of them happy, it would be a good idea to use one of the many approaches that have been used successfully by other researchers (e.g., paying them a compliment). This is good not only for the sake of feasibility—the approach is “tried and true”—but also because it provides greater continuity with previous research. This makes it easier to compare your results with those of other researchers and to understand the implications of their research for yours, and vice versa.

Key Takeaways

  • Research ideas can come from a variety of sources, including informal observations, practical problems, and previous research.
  • Research questions expressed in terms of variables and relationships between variables can be suggested by other researchers or generated by asking a series of more general questions about the behavior or psychological characteristic of interest.
  • It is important to evaluate how interesting a research question is before designing a study and collecting data to answer it. Factors that affect interestingness are the extent to which the answer is in doubt, whether it fills a gap in the research literature, and whether it has important practical implications.
  • It is also important to evaluate how feasible a research question will be to answer. Factors that affect feasibility include time, money, technical knowledge and skill, and access to special equipment and research participants.
  • Practice: Generate five research ideas based on each of the following: informal observations, practical problems, and topics discussed in recent issues of professional journals.
  • Practice: Generate five empirical research questions about each of the following behaviors or psychological characteristics: long-distance running, getting tattooed, social anxiety, bullying, and memory for early childhood events.
  • Practice: Evaluate each of the research questions you generated in Exercise 2 in terms of its interestingness based on the criteria discussed in this section.
  • Practice: Find an issue of a journal that publishes short empirical research reports (e.g., Psychological Science , Psychonomic Bulletin and Review , Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin ). Pick three studies, and rate each one in terms of how feasible it would be for you to replicate it with the resources available to you right now. Use the following rating scale: (1) You could replicate it essentially as reported. (2) You could replicate it with some simplifications. (3) You could not replicate it. Explain each rating.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67 , 371–378.

Weisberg, R. W. (1993). Creativity: Beyond the myth of genius . New York, NY: Freeman.

Research Methods in Psychology Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Empirical research in the social sciences and education.

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Introduction: What is Empirical Research?

Empirical research is based on observed and measured phenomena and derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief. 

How do you know if a study is empirical? Read the subheadings within the article, book, or report and look for a description of the research "methodology."  Ask yourself: Could I recreate this study and test these results?

Key characteristics to look for:

  • Specific research questions to be answered
  • Definition of the population, behavior, or   phenomena being studied
  • Description of the process used to study this population or phenomena, including selection criteria, controls, and testing instruments (such as surveys)

Another hint: some scholarly journals use a specific layout, called the "IMRaD" format, to communicate empirical research findings. Such articles typically have 4 components:

  • Introduction : sometimes called "literature review" -- what is currently known about the topic -- usually includes a theoretical framework and/or discussion of previous studies
  • Methodology: sometimes called "research design" -- how to recreate the study -- usually describes the population, research process, and analytical tools used in the present study
  • Results : sometimes called "findings" -- what was learned through the study -- usually appears as statistical data or as substantial quotations from research participants
  • Discussion : sometimes called "conclusion" or "implications" -- why the study is important -- usually describes how the research results influence professional practices or future studies

Reading and Evaluating Scholarly Materials

Reading research can be a challenge. However, the tutorials and videos below can help. They explain what scholarly articles look like, how to read them, and how to evaluate them:

  • CRAAP Checklist A frequently-used checklist that helps you examine the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose of an information source.
  • IF I APPLY A newer model of evaluating sources which encourages you to think about your own biases as a reader, as well as concerns about the item you are reading.
  • Credo Video: How to Read Scholarly Materials (4 min.)
  • Credo Tutorial: How to Read Scholarly Materials
  • Credo Tutorial: Evaluating Information
  • Credo Video: Evaluating Statistics (4 min.)
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  • Last Updated: Aug 23, 2023 10:33 AM
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Writing a Research Paper Introduction | Step-by-Step Guide

Published on September 24, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on March 27, 2023.

Writing a Research Paper Introduction

The introduction to a research paper is where you set up your topic and approach for the reader. It has several key goals:

  • Present your topic and get the reader interested
  • Provide background or summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Detail your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The introduction looks slightly different depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument by engaging with a variety of sources.

Table of contents

Step 1: introduce your topic, step 2: describe the background, step 3: establish your research problem, step 4: specify your objective(s), step 5: map out your paper, research paper introduction examples, frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

The first job of the introduction is to tell the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening hook.

The hook is a striking opening sentence that clearly conveys the relevance of your topic. Think of an interesting fact or statistic, a strong statement, a question, or a brief anecdote that will get the reader wondering about your topic.

For example, the following could be an effective hook for an argumentative paper about the environmental impact of cattle farming:

A more empirical paper investigating the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues in adolescent girls might use the following hook:

Don’t feel that your hook necessarily has to be deeply impressive or creative. Clarity and relevance are still more important than catchiness. The key thing is to guide the reader into your topic and situate your ideas.

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This part of the introduction differs depending on what approach your paper is taking.

In a more argumentative paper, you’ll explore some general background here. In a more empirical paper, this is the place to review previous research and establish how yours fits in.

Argumentative paper: Background information

After you’ve caught your reader’s attention, specify a bit more, providing context and narrowing down your topic.

Provide only the most relevant background information. The introduction isn’t the place to get too in-depth; if more background is essential to your paper, it can appear in the body .

Empirical paper: Describing previous research

For a paper describing original research, you’ll instead provide an overview of the most relevant research that has already been conducted. This is a sort of miniature literature review —a sketch of the current state of research into your topic, boiled down to a few sentences.

This should be informed by genuine engagement with the literature. Your search can be less extensive than in a full literature review, but a clear sense of the relevant research is crucial to inform your own work.

Begin by establishing the kinds of research that have been done, and end with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to respond to.

The next step is to clarify how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses.

Argumentative paper: Emphasize importance

In an argumentative research paper, you can simply state the problem you intend to discuss, and what is original or important about your argument.

Empirical paper: Relate to the literature

In an empirical research paper, try to lead into the problem on the basis of your discussion of the literature. Think in terms of these questions:

  • What research gap is your work intended to fill?
  • What limitations in previous work does it address?
  • What contribution to knowledge does it make?

You can make the connection between your problem and the existing research using phrases like the following.

Now you’ll get into the specifics of what you intend to find out or express in your research paper.

The way you frame your research objectives varies. An argumentative paper presents a thesis statement, while an empirical paper generally poses a research question (sometimes with a hypothesis as to the answer).

Argumentative paper: Thesis statement

The thesis statement expresses the position that the rest of the paper will present evidence and arguments for. It can be presented in one or two sentences, and should state your position clearly and directly, without providing specific arguments for it at this point.

Empirical paper: Research question and hypothesis

The research question is the question you want to answer in an empirical research paper.

Present your research question clearly and directly, with a minimum of discussion at this point. The rest of the paper will be taken up with discussing and investigating this question; here you just need to express it.

A research question can be framed either directly or indirectly.

  • This study set out to answer the following question: What effects does daily use of Instagram have on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls?
  • We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls.

If your research involved testing hypotheses , these should be stated along with your research question. They are usually presented in the past tense, since the hypothesis will already have been tested by the time you are writing up your paper.

For example, the following hypothesis might respond to the research question above:

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The final part of the introduction is often dedicated to a brief overview of the rest of the paper.

In a paper structured using the standard scientific “introduction, methods, results, discussion” format, this isn’t always necessary. But if your paper is structured in a less predictable way, it’s important to describe the shape of it for the reader.

If included, the overview should be concise, direct, and written in the present tense.

  • This paper will first discuss several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then will go on to …
  • This paper first discusses several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then goes on to …

Full examples of research paper introductions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.

  • Argumentative paper
  • Empirical paper

Are cows responsible for climate change? A recent study (RIVM, 2019) shows that cattle farmers account for two thirds of agricultural nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. These emissions result from nitrogen in manure, which can degrade into ammonia and enter the atmosphere. The study’s calculations show that agriculture is the main source of nitrogen pollution, accounting for 46% of the country’s total emissions. By comparison, road traffic and households are responsible for 6.1% each, the industrial sector for 1%. While efforts are being made to mitigate these emissions, policymakers are reluctant to reckon with the scale of the problem. The approach presented here is a radical one, but commensurate with the issue. This paper argues that the Dutch government must stimulate and subsidize livestock farmers, especially cattle farmers, to transition to sustainable vegetable farming. It first establishes the inadequacy of current mitigation measures, then discusses the various advantages of the results proposed, and finally addresses potential objections to the plan on economic grounds.

The rise of social media has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the prevalence of body image issues among women and girls. This correlation has received significant academic attention: Various empirical studies have been conducted into Facebook usage among adolescent girls (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013; Meier & Gray, 2014). These studies have consistently found that the visual and interactive aspects of the platform have the greatest influence on body image issues. Despite this, highly visual social media (HVSM) such as Instagram have yet to be robustly researched. This paper sets out to address this research gap. We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls. It was hypothesized that daily Instagram use would be associated with an increase in body image concerns and a decrease in self-esteem ratings.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem

and your problem statement

  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an overview of the paper

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

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Empirical Research: Defining, Identifying, & Finding

Defining empirical research, what is empirical research, quantitative or qualitative.

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Calfee & Chambliss (2005)  (UofM login required) describe empirical research as a "systematic approach for answering certain types of questions."  Those questions are answered "[t]hrough the collection of evidence under carefully defined and replicable conditions" (p. 43). 

The evidence collected during empirical research is often referred to as "data." 

Characteristics of Empirical Research

Emerald Publishing's guide to conducting empirical research identifies a number of common elements to empirical research: 

  • A  research question , which will determine research objectives.
  • A particular and planned  design  for the research, which will depend on the question and which will find ways of answering it with appropriate use of resources.
  • The gathering of  primary data , which is then analysed.
  • A particular  methodology  for collecting and analysing the data, such as an experiment or survey.
  • The limitation of the data to a particular group, area or time scale, known as a sample [emphasis added]: for example, a specific number of employees of a particular company type, or all users of a library over a given time scale. The sample should be somehow representative of a wider population.
  • The ability to  recreate  the study and test the results. This is known as  reliability .
  • The ability to  generalize  from the findings to a larger sample and to other situations.

If you see these elements in a research article, you can feel confident that you have found empirical research. Emerald's guide goes into more detail on each element. 

Empirical research methodologies can be described as quantitative, qualitative, or a mix of both (usually called mixed-methods).

Ruane (2016)  (UofM login required) gets at the basic differences in approach between quantitative and qualitative research:

  • Quantitative research  -- an approach to documenting reality that relies heavily on numbers both for the measurement of variables and for data analysis (p. 33).
  • Qualitative research  -- an approach to documenting reality that relies on words and images as the primary data source (p. 33).

Both quantitative and qualitative methods are empirical . If you can recognize that a research study is quantitative or qualitative study, then you have also recognized that it is empirical study. 

Below are information on the characteristics of quantitative and qualitative research. This video from Scribbr also offers a good overall introduction to the two approaches to research methodology: 

Characteristics of Quantitative Research 

Researchers test hypotheses, or theories, based in assumptions about causality, i.e. we expect variable X to cause variable Y. Variables have to be controlled as much as possible to ensure validity. The results explain the relationship between the variables. Measures are based in pre-defined instruments.

Examples: experimental or quasi-experimental design, pretest & post-test, survey or questionnaire with closed-ended questions. Studies that identify factors that influence an outcomes, the utility of an intervention, or understanding predictors of outcomes. 

Characteristics of Qualitative Research

Researchers explore “meaning individuals or groups ascribe to social or human problems (Creswell & Creswell, 2018, p3).” Questions and procedures emerge rather than being prescribed. Complexity, nuance, and individual meaning are valued. Research is both inductive and deductive. Data sources are multiple and varied, i.e. interviews, observations, documents, photographs, etc. The researcher is a key instrument and must be reflective of their background, culture, and experiences as influential of the research.

Examples: open question interviews and surveys, focus groups, case studies, grounded theory, ethnography, discourse analysis, narrative, phenomenology, participatory action research.

Calfee, R. C. & Chambliss, M. (2005). The design of empirical research. In J. Flood, D. Lapp, J. R. Squire, & J. Jensen (Eds.),  Methods of research on teaching the English language arts: The methodology chapters from the handbook of research on teaching the English language arts (pp. 43-78). Routledge.  http://ezproxy.memphis.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=125955&site=eds-live&scope=site .

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2018).  Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches  (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

How to... conduct empirical research . (n.d.). Emerald Publishing.  https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/how-to/research-methods/conduct-empirical-research .

Scribbr. (2019). Quantitative vs. qualitative: The differences explained  [video]. YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-XtVF7Bofg .

Ruane, J. M. (2016).  Introducing social research methods : Essentials for getting the edge . Wiley-Blackwell.  http://ezproxy.memphis.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1107215&site=eds-live&scope=site .  

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Key Features

Empirical research: test your knowledge, article example.

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These are some key features to look for when identifying empirical research in political science and criminal justice.

NOTE: Not all of these features will be in every empirical research article, some may be excluded, use this only as a guide.

  • Statement of methodology
  • Research questions are clear and measurable
  • Individuals, group, subjects which are being studied are identified/defined
  • Data is presented regarding the findings
  • Controls or instruments such as surveys or tests were conducted
  • There is a literature review
  • There is discussion of the results included
  • Citations/references are included
  • Empirical Research? Yes or no?

Evaluate these articles to determine if they are empirical research or not.

2009. "Disproportionate sales of crime guns among licensed handgun retailers in the United States: a case–control study." Injury Prevention 15, no. 5: 291-299. Criminal Justice Abstracts with Full Text , EBSCO host (accessed October 3, 2013). http://mantis.csuchico.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=i3h&AN=44739892&site=eds-live

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What Is Empirical Research? Definition And Tips For Students

empirical research

So what is an empirical research article? What does empirical research entail? What are good examples of empirical research topics? These are common questions most students find themselves asking whenever a research paper instructs them to read and analyze empirical articles or evidence to answer a particular question. Such questions also arise when it comes to graduation papers and many students just ask writers  to help. If this points out your current dilemma, then you are in good company because below is a well-detailed guide on all you need to know about empirical research.

Definition of Empirical Research

Empirical research is a type of research whose findings or conclusions are mainly drawn from empirical or verifiable evidence rather than rationality.

Simply put, empirical research is any research whose findings are based on observable or experimentation evidence rather than through reasoning or logic alone. For instance, if a scientist wants to find out whether soft music promotes sleep, he or she will find a group of people and divide them into two groups.

The first group will be in a space with soft music while the second one will be in an area with no music at all for observation. Once the experiment is over, the results or conclusion drawn from it will be termed as empirical evidence whether or not soft music promotes sleep.

The Objectives of Empirical Research

There is more to empirical research than just observations. In fact, these observations will be useless if the scientist does not turn them into testable questions. So, now that you know what empirical research entails, what are the objectives? Well, the main reason why you’ll be asked to conduct such research is so you can use the findings drawn from your observations to answer well-defined questions that go with or against a particular hypothesis.

In the earlier mentioned example, for instance, the hypothesis would be “soft music promotes sleep.” Thus, the aim of carrying out empirical research, in this case, would be to come up with conclusions that either accept or reject the hypotheses.

Now to achieve this, you can either use quantitative or qualitative methodologies. Here is a breakdown of what each of the mentioned entails

Quantitative Methods

Quantitative empirical research methods are often used to collect information and draw conclusions through numerical data. Quantitative methods are usually predetermined and are set in a more structured format. Some good examples include

  • Longitudinal studies
  • Cross-sectional studies
  • Experimental research
  • Causal comparative research

The above techniques are often more effective for physics or medicine.

Qualitative Methods

Qualitative empirical research methods, on the other hand, are used to gather non-numerical data. They are mainly unstructured or semi-structured and are used to find meaning or underlying reasons for a particular phenomenon. In other words, they are used to provide more insight into the problem being researched. So, is qualitative research empirical? The short answer to that is yes. It is indeed empirical but more appropriate in finding answers to social science-related questions.

Types of Empirical Research

Note, there is a difference between methodologies and types of empirical research. Methodologies are the earlier mentioned quantitative and qualitative, and they refer to the methods used to conduct or analyze data. But when it comes to types of empirical research, it can be either experimental or non-experimental.

In experimental research, a particular intervention is often used to drive a hypothesized changed in the variables of interest. In non-experimental empirical research, however, the subjects of the study are simply observed without any form of intervention. This is why it’s also referred to as informal research.

How to Identify Empirical Research Articles

Now that you know the types of empirical research as well as methodologies, how do you distinguish an empirical research paper from a regular research paper? Well, as with any other research question, empirical research questions usually have features that can help you identify them as shown below

Empirical Research Article Format

The easiest way to identify an empirical research article is through its unique format. It’s usually divided into these sections

  • The Title. It offers an overview of the research and also includes the author(s) who conducted it
  • An abstract. It provides a very brief yet comprehensive summary of the empirical research study. It’s usually a paragraph long.
  • The Introduction. Here the author provides background information on the research problem. For instance, they talk about similar studies and explain why the research was conducted in the first place.
  • The MethodsIn this section, the author offers a detailed description of all methods used to conduct the empirical research study. In some articles, it may be titled methodology.
  • The Results. Here the author provides the answer to the research question.
  • DiscussionThe author will then go on to give a detailed discussion of the data obtained or the results found above. They may also compare the results of their empirical research study to the results obtained by other empirical studies on similar topics.
  • ReferencesHere as you may have guessed, the author lists citations of any journal articles, studies, or books mentioned or used in coming up with the results.

Keywords Used in an Empirical Research Paper

Other than the format, you can also identify an empirical research paper based on the phrases used within it. Some of the must-have keywords include:

  • Measure or measurements
  • Qualitative and quantitative research
  • Sample size
  • Methodology
  • Original study or research study

Empirical Research Examples

Some of the empirical questions you could come across in empirical research include:

  • According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, at which level are, leaders need level?
  • The lop-sided sales of illegal guns among licensed handgun retailers.
  • Freeway truck travel-time prediction for seamless freight planning using GPS data.
  • Use empirical research to explain the entrepreneurial mindset concerning cognition and motivation.
  • Are meta-analysis reviews theoretical or empirical research?

Theoretical vs. Empirical Research

Unlike empirical research, which is based on valid or observational evidence, theoretical research is more logical than observational. It is a logical exploration of a system of assumptions and involves defining how a particular system and its environment behave without the analysis of concrete data.

Therefore, theoretical research can be classified as non-empirical data as it is conducted without data. It is essential as it offers anyone conducting research a place to start. For instance, saying soft music promotes sleep gives the researcher a hypothesis to base their research proposal on and an easy way to start. However, theoretical data is only useful if empirical research is conducted.

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  • What is Empirical Research Study? [Examples & Method]


The bulk of human decisions relies on evidence, that is, what can be measured or proven as valid. In choosing between plausible alternatives, individuals are more likely to tilt towards the option that is proven to work, and this is the same approach adopted in empirical research. 

In empirical research, the researcher arrives at outcomes by testing his or her empirical evidence using qualitative or quantitative methods of observation, as determined by the nature of the research. An empirical research study is set apart from other research approaches by its methodology and features hence; it is important for every researcher to know what constitutes this investigation method. 

What is Empirical Research? 

Empirical research is a type of research methodology that makes use of verifiable evidence in order to arrive at research outcomes. In other words, this  type of research relies solely on evidence obtained through observation or scientific data collection methods. 

Empirical research can be carried out using qualitative or quantitative observation methods , depending on the data sample, that is, quantifiable data or non-numerical data . Unlike theoretical research that depends on preconceived notions about the research variables, empirical research carries a scientific investigation to measure the experimental probability of the research variables 

Characteristics of Empirical Research

  • Research Questions

An empirical research begins with a set of research questions that guide the investigation. In many cases, these research questions constitute the research hypothesis which is tested using qualitative and quantitative methods as dictated by the nature of the research.

In an empirical research study, the research questions are built around the core of the research, that is, the central issue which the research seeks to resolve. They also determine the course of the research by highlighting the specific objectives and aims of the systematic investigation. 

  • Definition of the Research Variables

The research variables are clearly defined in terms of their population, types, characteristics, and behaviors. In other words, the data sample is clearly delimited and placed within the context of the research. 

  • Description of the Research Methodology

 An empirical research also clearly outlines the methods adopted in the systematic investigation. Here, the research process is described in detail including the selection criteria for the data sample, qualitative or quantitative research methods plus testing instruments. 

An empirical research is usually divided into 4 parts which are the introduction, methodology, findings, and discussions. The introduction provides a background of the empirical study while the methodology describes the research design, processes, and tools for the systematic investigation. 

The findings refer to the research outcomes and they can be outlined as statistical data or in the form of information obtained through the qualitative observation of research variables. The discussions highlight the significance of the study and its contributions to knowledge. 

Uses of Empirical Research

Without any doubt, empirical research is one of the most useful methods of systematic investigation. It can be used for validating multiple research hypotheses in different fields including Law, Medicine, and Anthropology. 

  • Empirical Research in Law : In Law, empirical research is used to study institutions, rules, procedures, and personnel of the law, with a view to understanding how they operate and what effects they have. It makes use of direct methods rather than secondary sources, and this helps you to arrive at more valid conclusions. 
  • Empirical Research in Medicine : In medicine, empirical research is used to test and validate multiple hypotheses and increase human knowledge. 
  • Empirical Research in Anthropology : In anthropology, empirical research is used as an evidence-based systematic method of inquiry into patterns of human behaviors and cultures. This helps to validate and advance human knowledge. 

The Empirical Research Cycle

The empirical research cycle is a 5-phase cycle that outlines the systematic processes for conducting and empirical research. It was developed by Dutch psychologist, A.D. de Groot in the 1940s and it aligns 5 important stages that can be viewed as deductive approaches to empirical research. 

In the empirical research methodological cycle, all processes are interconnected and none of the processes is more important than the other. This cycle clearly outlines the different phases involved in generating the research hypotheses and testing these hypotheses systematically using the empirical data. 

  • Observation:This is the process of gathering empirical data for the research. At this stage, the researcher gathers relevant empirical data using qualitative or quantitative observation methods, and this goes ahead to inform the research hypotheses. 
  • Induction: At this stage, the researcher makes use of inductive reasoning in order to arrive at a general probable research conclusion based on his or her observation. The researcher generates a general assumption that attempts to explain the empirical data and s/he goes on to observe the empirical data in line with this assumption.  
  • Deduction: This is the deductive reasoning stage. This is where the researcher generates hypotheses by applying logic and rationality to his or her observation. 
  • Testing: Here, the researcher puts the hypotheses to test using qualitative or quantitative research methods. In the testing stage, the researcher combines relevant instruments of systematic investigation with empirical methods in order to arrive at objective results that support or negate the research hypotheses. 
  • Evaluation: The evaluation research is the final stage in an empirical research study. Here, the research outlines the empirical data, the research findings and the supporting arguments plus any challenges encountered during the research process. 

This information is useful for further research. 

Examples of Empirical Research 

  • An empirical research study can be carried out to determine if listening to happy music improves the mood of individuals. The researcher may need to conduct an experiment that involves exposing individuals to happy music to see if this improves their moods.

The findings from such an experiment will provide empirical evidence that confirms or refutes the hypotheses. 

  • An empirical research study can also be carried out to determine the effects of a new drug on specific groups of people. The researcher may expose the research subjects to controlled quantities of the drug and observe research subjects to controlled quantities of the drug and observe the effects over a specific period of time in order to gather empirical data. 
  • Another example of empirical research is measuring the levels of noise pollution found in an urban area to determine the average levels of sound exposure experienced by its inhabitants. Here, the researcher may have to administer questionnaires or carry out a survey in order to gather relevant data based on the experiences of the research subjects. 
  • Empirical research can also be carried out to determine the relationship between seasonal migration and the body mass of flying birds. A researcher may need to observe the birds and carry out necessary observation and experimentation in order to arrive at objective outcomes that answer the research question. 

Empirical Research Data Collection Methods

Empirical data can be gathered using qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. Quantitative data collection methods are used for numerical data gathering while qualitative data collection processes are used to gather empirical data that cannot be quantified, that is, non-numerical data. 

The following are common methods of gathering data in empirical research

  • Survey/ Questionnaire

A survey is a method of data gathering that is typically employed by researchers to gather large sets of data from a specific number of respondents with regards to a research subject. This method of data gathering is often used for quantitative data collection , although it can also be deployed during quantitative research.  

A survey contains a set of questions that can range from close-ended to open-ended questions together with other question types that revolve around the research subject. A survey can be administered physically or with the use of online data-gathering platforms like Formplus. 

Empirical data can also be collected by carrying out an experiment. An experiment is a controlled simulation in which one or more of the research variables is manipulated using a set of interconnected processes in order to confirm or refute the research hypotheses. 

An experiment is a useful method of measuring causality; that is cause and effect between dependent and independent variables in a research environment. It is an integral data gathering method in an empirical research study because it involves testing calculated assumptions in order to arrive at the most valid data and research outcomes. 

T he case study method is another common data gathering method in an empirical research study. It involves sifting through and analyzing relevant cases and real-life experiences about the research subject or research variables in order to discover in-depth information that can serve as empirical data. 

  • Observation

The observational method is a method of qualitative data gathering that requires the researcher to study the behaviors of research variables in their natural environments in order to gather relevant information that can serve as empirical data. 

How to collect Empirical Research Data with Questionnaire

With Formplus, you can create a survey or questionnaire for collecting empirical data from your research subjects. Formplus also offers multiple form sharing options so that you can share your empirical research survey to research subjects via a variety of methods.

Here is a step-by-step guide of how to collect empirical data using Formplus:

Sign in to Formplus


In the Formplus builder, you can easily create your empirical research survey by dragging and dropping preferred fields into your form. To access the Formplus builder, you will need to create an account on Formplus. 

Once you do this, sign in to your account and click on “Create Form ” to begin. 

Edit Form Title

Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, “Empirical Research Survey”.


Edit Form  

  • Click on the edit button to edit the form.
  • Add Fields: Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. There are several field input options for survey forms in the Formplus builder. 
  • Edit fields
  • Click on “Save”
  • Preview form. 


Customize Form

Formplus allows you to add unique features to your empirical research survey form. You can personalize your survey using various customization options. Here, you can add background images, your organization’s logo, and use other styling options. You can also change the display theme of your form. 


  • Share your Form Link with Respondents

Formplus offers multiple form sharing options which enables you to easily share your empirical research survey form with respondents. You can use the direct social media sharing buttons to share your form link to your organization’s social media pages. 

You can send out your survey form as email invitations to your research subjects too. If you wish, you can share your form’s QR code or embed it on your organization’s website for easy access. 


Empirical vs Non-Empirical Research

Empirical and non-empirical research are common methods of systematic investigation employed by researchers. Unlike empirical research that tests hypotheses in order to arrive at valid research outcomes, non-empirical research theorizes the logical assumptions of research variables. 

Definition: Empirical research is a research approach that makes use of evidence-based data while non-empirical research is a research approach that makes use of theoretical data. 

Method: In empirical research, the researcher arrives at valid outcomes by mainly observing research variables, creating a hypothesis and experimenting on research variables to confirm or refute the hypothesis. In non-empirical research, the researcher relies on inductive and deductive reasoning to theorize logical assumptions about the research subjects.

The major difference between the research methodology of empirical and non-empirical research is while the assumptions are tested in empirical research, they are entirely theorized in non-empirical research. 

Data Sample: Empirical research makes use of empirical data while non-empirical research does not make use of empirical data. Empirical data refers to information that is gathered through experience or observation. 

Unlike empirical research, theoretical or non-empirical research does not rely on data gathered through evidence. Rather, it works with logical assumptions and beliefs about the research subject. 

Data Collection Methods : Empirical research makes use of quantitative and qualitative data gathering methods which may include surveys, experiments, and methods of observation. This helps the researcher to gather empirical data, that is, data backed by evidence.  

Non-empirical research, on the other hand, does not make use of qualitative or quantitative methods of data collection . Instead, the researcher gathers relevant data through critical studies, systematic review and meta-analysis. 

Advantages of Empirical Research 

  • Empirical research is flexible. In this type of systematic investigation, the researcher can adjust the research methodology including the data sample size, data gathering methods plus the data analysis methods as necessitated by the research process. 
  • It helps the research to understand how the research outcomes can be influenced by different research environments.
  • Empirical research study helps the researcher to develop relevant analytical and observation skills that can be useful in dynamic research contexts. 
  • This type of research approach allows the researcher to control multiple research variables in order to arrive at the most relevant research outcomes. 
  • Empirical research is widely considered as one of the most authentic and competent research designs. 
  • It improves the internal validity of traditional research using a variety of experiments and research observation methods. 

Disadvantages of Empirical Research 

  • An empirical research study is time-consuming because the researcher needs to gather the empirical data from multiple resources which typically takes a lot of time.
  • It is not a cost-effective research approach. Usually, this method of research incurs a lot of cost because of the monetary demands of the field research. 
  • It may be difficult to gather the needed empirical data sample because of the multiple data gathering methods employed in an empirical research study. 
  • It may be difficult to gain access to some communities and firms during the data gathering process and this can affect the validity of the research.
  • The report from an empirical research study is intensive and can be very lengthy in nature. 


Empirical research is an important method of systematic investigation because it gives the researcher the opportunity to test the validity of different assumptions, in the form of hypotheses, before arriving at any findings. Hence, it is a more research approach. 

There are different quantitative and qualitative methods of data gathering employed during an empirical research study based on the purpose of the research which include surveys, experiments, and various observatory methods. Surveys are one of the most common methods or empirical data collection and they can be administered online or physically. 

You can use Formplus to create and administer your online empirical research survey. Formplus allows you to create survey forms that you can share with target respondents in order to obtain valuable feedback about your research context, question or subject. 

In the form builder, you can add different fields to your survey form and you can also modify these form fields to suit your research process. Sign up to Formplus to access the form builder and start creating powerful online empirical research survey forms. 


Collect and analyze empirical research data with Formplus

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What is Empirical research?

In empirical study, conclusions of the study are drawn from concrete empirical evidence. This evidence is also referred to as “verifiable” evidence. This evidence is gathered either through quantitative market research or qualitative market research methods.

An example of empirical analysis  would be if a researcher was interested in finding out whether listening to happy music promotes prosocial behaviour. An experiment could be conducted where one group of the audience is exposed to happy music and the other is not exposed to music at all. The participants could be given an opportunity to either help a stranger with something or not. The results are then evaluated to find whether happy music increases prosaically behavior or not.

Empirical Research

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What is an Empirical Study?

The origin of empirical methods starts from the quote “I will not believe it unless I see it myself.” Empirical observation emerged during the renaissance with medieval science. The word empirical is derived from the Greek word ‘empeirikos’ meaning ‘experienced’.

The word empirical, in today’s day and age, refers to collecting empirical data through methods of observation, experience, or by specific scientific instruments. All of these methods are dependent on observation and experiments which are used to collect data and test the same for arriving at conclusions. Online survey tools are an extremely effective technique which can be used for empirical methods.

Types and methodologies of empirical research

Empirical study uses qualitative or quantitative methods to conduct research and analyze results. 

  • Quantitative research: Quantitative research is referred to as the process of collecting as well as analyzing numerical data. It is generally used to find patterns, averages, predictions, as well as cause-effect relationships between the variables being studied. It is also used to generalize the results of a particular study to the population in consideration.

Empirical Research 2

  • Qualitative research: Qualitative research can be defined as a method used for market research which aims at obtaining data through open-ended questions and conversations with the intended consumers. This method aims at establishing not only “what” people think but “how” they come to that opinion as well as “why” they think so.

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Empirical Research 3

The empirical data that is collected from either of these methods has to be analyzed. Empirical evidence is analyzed using qualitative or quantitative methods. These methods are used to answer empirical questions that are clearly defined. The type of research design used by the researcher depends on the field and the nature of the problem. Some researchers use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to answer the questions set for the research.

Quantitative research methods

Quantitative research methods help in the analysis of the empirical evidence that has been gathered. By using these methods researchers can find support for their hypotheses.

  • Survey research: Survey research is the most common and widely used tool for quantitative research. Surveys are used to gather data by asking relevant questions to the respondents who are thought to have the relevant information we are seeking to acquire. Generally, a formal list of questionnaires is prepared which is circulated to the respondents and they can self-report their thoughts. Researchers use a non-disguised approach so that the participants of the survey know exactly what they are answering. In general, respondents are asked questions regarding their demographic details, and the opinion that the researcher is interested in studying. Surveys can be conducted through online polls, paper-pencil questionnaires, web-intercept surveys, etc. 

For example: In market research, customers are deemed as the most important part of the organisation. It is a known fact that satisfied customers will help your organisation grow directly by remaining loyal to your company and also by becoming an advocate for your brand. Researchers can use customer satisfaction survey templates to assess their brand’s value and how likely their customers are to recommend their brand to others.

  • Experimental research : This is one of the most recommended and reliant research methods in natural as well as social sciences. As the name suggests, experimental research (also known as experimentation) is usually based on one of more theories as its driving principle or rationale. In this method, the theory which is under study has not yet proven, it is merely a speculation. Thus, an experiment is performed in order to either prove or disprove the theory. If the results of the experiment are in line with the prediction made by the theory, then the theory is supported. If not, then the theory is refuted. 

For instance, if a researcher wants to study whether their dandruff protection product is successful in curing dandruff, and the only difference between the two groups under study is the product of interest (one group uses the product while group 2 uses a placebo), then dandruff could be considered as the dependent variable and the product curing it would be called an independent variable. Now, the independent variable, here, is “manipulated” in the sense that one group is exposed to it and one is not. All things being constant, if the product cures dandruff in group 1 as opposed to the group that is using a placebo, the experimental research findings are successful. This will help in establishing a cause and effect relationship, the product is “causing” the treatment (“effect”) of dandruff.

  • Correlational research : A correlation refers to an association or a relationship between two entities. A correlational research studies how one entity impacts the other and what are the changes that are observed when either one of them changes.  correlation coefficient ranges from -1 to +1. A correlation coefficient of +1 indicates a perfect positive correlation whereas a correlation coefficient of -1 indicates a perfect negative correlation between two variables. A correlation coefficient of 0 indicates that there is no relationship between the variables under study.

Some examples of correlational research questions: 

  • What is the relationship between gender and the purchase of a particular product under study?
  • The relationship between stress and burnout in employees of an organisation.
  • The relationship between choosing to work from home and the level of corona-phobia in employees.
  • Longitudinal study : Longitudinal surveys, on the other hand, involve studying variables for a long period of time and observing the changes in them from time to time. Here, the data is collected from the respondents at the beginning of the study, and then the researcher collects data at different time intervals until the end of the study. Longitudinal surveys are more popularly used in medicinal science to understand and evaluate the effects of medicines, or vaccines, in the long-run on participants. Because longitudinal surveys take place for several years, researchers can establish the sequence of events that may affect the variable under study.

For example: If researchers want to understand how smoking affects the development of cancer in later stages of life, they would choose participants who are different from other observable variables but similar in one: smoking. In this case, researchers would observe the participants who started smoking from adolescence into later adulthood and examine the changes in their body that are caused due to smoking. They can see how smoking has influenced the immunity of participants, their reaction to stress, and other variables relevant to the researcher. Over time, researchers can also observe the effects of quitting smoking if some participants decide to quit smoking later in their life. This will help researchers understand the interaction between health and smoking in more detail.

  • Cross sectional: In cross-sectional surveys, the study takes place at a single point in time. Hence, cross-sectional surveys do not entail the manipulation of the variables under study, and are limited in that way. Cross-sectional surveys allow researchers to study various characteristics, such as the demographic structure of the consumers, their interests, and attitudes, all at once. It aims to provide information about the population at the current moment in time. For example, cross-sectional surveys will tell us how the consumer is responding and feeling about the product at the present moment. It does not study the other variables that may affect the consumers’ reactions to the product in the future.

For example: Let us consider a researcher who is aiming to study developmental psychology. He/she may select groups of people who are of different ages but study them at one point in time. In this way, the difference between the groups will be attributed to their age differences instead of other variables that may happen over time.

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Qualitative research methods

A qualitative approach is more appropriate when tackling some research questions. This is especially true if the researcher wishes to observe the behaviors of the target audience in-depth. The results here are in descriptive form. Qualitative research is not predictive in nature. It enables researchers to build and support their theories to advance future potential quantitative research. Qualitative research methods are used to come up with conclusions to support the theory or hypothesis under study.

  • Case study: Case studies have evolved to become a valuable method for qualitative research. It is used for explaining a case of an organization or an entity. This is one of the simplest ways of conducting research because it involves an exhaustive understanding of the data collected and the interpretation of the same. 

For example: For example; let’s assume that a researcher is interested in understanding how to effectively solve the problems of turnover in organizations. While exploring, he came across an organization that had high rates of turnover and was able to solve the problem by the end of the year. The researcher can study this case in detail and come up with methods that increased the chances of success for this organization.

  • Observational method :  When doing qualitative research, maintaining the existing records can be a valuable source of information in the future. This data can be used in new research and also provide insights for the same. Observation is one of the common aspects that is used in every method we described above. It can be systematic or naturalistic. Qualitative observation of respondents’ answers, or their behaviors in particular settings can yield enriching insights. Hence, observation in qualitative research is used to gather information about relevant characteristics that the researcher is interested in studying.

For instance, if a smartphone brand wants to see how customers react to its products in a showroom, observers may be hired to note the same. The observers can use the recorded observations to evaluate and draw inferences about the customers.

  • One-on-one interview : Interviewing people of interest is one of the most common practices in qualitative research. Here, there is an in-depth personal interview carried out either face-to-face or through online mediums with one respondent at a time. This is a conversational method of gathering information and it invites the researcher with an opportunity to get a detailed response from the respondent.

For example: A one-on-one interview with an environmentalist will help to gather data on the current climate crisis in the world. 

  • Focus groups :  Another most commonly used method in qualitative research apart from interviewing people is focus group. In this method, data is usually conducted once a researcher includes a limited number of consumers (usually ranging from 6 to 10) from the target market and forms a group. 

For example: Let’s assume a researcher wants to explore what are qualities consumers value when buying a laptop. This could be the display quality, battery life, brand value, or even the color. The researcher can make a focus group of people who buy laptops regularly and understand the dynamics a consumer considers when buying electronic devices.

  • Text analysis : In text analysis, researchers analyze the social life of the respondents in the study and aim to decode the actions and the words of the respondents. Hence, text analysis is distinct from other qualitative research methods as it focuses on the social life of the respondents. In the last decade or so, text analysis has become increasingly popular due to the analysis of what consumers share on social media platforms in the form of blogs, images, and other texts. 

For example: Companies ask their customers to give detailed feedback on how satisfied they are with their customer support team. This data helps them make appropriate decisions to improve their team.

Sometimes researchers use a combination of methods to answer the questions. This is especially true when researchers tackle complex subject matters.

Exploratory Research Guide

Conducting exploratory research seems tricky but an effective guide can help.

Steps for conducting empirical research

Since empirical methods are based on observation and capturing experiences, it is important to plan the steps to conduct the experiment and how to analyze it. This will enable the researcher to resolve problems or obstacles which can occur during the experiment.

Step #1: Define the purpose of the research

The very first step is for the researcher to identify the area of research and the problem can be addressed by finding out ways to solve it. The researcher should come up with various questions regarding what is the problem, who will benefit from the research, how should they go about the process, etc. The researchers should explore the purpose of the research in detail.

Step #2 : Supporting theories and relevant literature

After exploring and finding out the purpose of the research, the researcher must aim to find if there are existing theories that have addressed this before. The researcher has to figure out whether any previous studies can help them support their research. During this stage of empirical study, the researcher should aim at finding all relevant literature that will help them understand the problem at hand. The researcher should also come up with his/her own set of assumptions or problem statements that they wish to explore. 

Step #3: Creation of Hypothesis and measurement

If the researcher is aiming to solve a problem the problem has not been resolved efficiently in previous research, then the researcher creates his/her own problem statement. This problem statement, also called hypothesis, will be based on the questions that the researcher came up with while identifying the area of concern. The researcher can also form a hypothesis on the basis of prior research they found and studied during the literature review phase of the study.

Step #4: Methodology, research design and empirical data collection

Here the researcher has to define the strategies to be used for conducting the research. They can set up experiments in collecting data that can help them come up with probable hypotheses. On the basis of the hypotheses, researchers can decide whether they will require experimental or non-experimental methods for the conduction of the research. The research design will depend upon the field in which the research is to be conducted. The researchers will need to find parameters that can affect the validity of the research design. Researchers also need to choose appropriate methods of data collection, which in turn depends on the research question. There are many sampling methods that can be used by the researcher. Once, the data is collected, it has to be analysed.

Step #5: Data Analysis and result

Data can be analyzed either qualitatively and quantitatively. Researchers will need to decide which method they will employ depending upon the nature of the empirical data collected. Researchers can also use a combination of both for their study. On the basis of the analysis, the hypothesis will either be supported or rejected. Data analysis is the most important aspect of empirical observation.

Step #6: Conclusion

The researcher will have to collate the findings and make a report based on the empirical observations. The researcher can use previous theories and literature to support their hypothesis and lineage of findings. The researcher can also make recommendations for future research on similar issues.

Advantages of Empirical research

The advantages of empirical study are highlighted below:

  • Used for authentication. Empirical study is used to authenticate previous findings of experiments and empirical observations. This research methodology makes the conducted study more authentic and accurate. 
  • Empirical approach is useful for understanding dynamic changes. Due to the detailed process of literature review, empirical analysis is used in helping researchers understand dynamic changes in the field. It also enables them to strategies accordingly.
  • Provides a level of control . Empirical approach empowers researchers to demonstrate a level of control by allowing them to control multiple variables under study.
  • Empirical methods Increase internal validity . The high level of control in the research process makes an empirical method demonstrate high internal validity.

Disadvantages of Empirical research

Empirical approach is not without its limitations. Some of them include:

  • Time consuming . Empirical studies are time consuming because it requires researchers to collect data through multiple sources. It also requires them to assess various parameters involved in the research. 
  • Empirical approach is Expensive. The researcher may have to conduct the research at different locations or environments which may be expensive.
  • Difficult to acquire consent/permission. Sometimes empirical studies may be difficult to conduct due to the rules that are to be followed when conducting it.
  • Data collection in the empirical approach can be a problem. Since empirical data has to be collected from different methods and sources, it can pose a problem to the researchers.

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Why is there a need for empirical research?

Because most people today only believe in their experiences, empirical observation is increasingly becoming important. It is used to validate various hypotheses or refute them in the face of evidence. It also increases human knowledge and advances scientific progression. 

For instance, empirical analysis is used by pharmaceutical companies to test specific drugs. This is done by administering the drug on an experimental group, while giving a placebo to the control group. This is done to prove theories about the proposed drug and check its efficacy. This is the most crucial way in which leading evidence for various drugs have been found for many years. 

Empirical methods are used not just in medical science, but also in history, social science, market research, etc.

In today’s world it has become critical to conduct empirical analysis in order to support hypotheses and gather knowledge in several fields. The methods under empirical studies mentioned above help researchers to carry out research.

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    You will begin with broad statements that introduce the background of your research topic and it becomes more and more narrow (your research question and hypothesis) until it reaches the Methods and Results sections, which are the most specific section s of your paper.

  8. 2.2 Generating Good Research Questions

    Practice: Evaluate each of the research questions you generated in Exercise 2 in terms of its interestingness based on the criteria discussed in this section. Practice: Find an issue of a journal that publishes short empirical research reports (e.g., Psychological Science, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, Personality and Social Psychology ...

  9. Empirical Research in the Social Sciences and Education

    Specific research questions to be answered; Definition of the population, behavior, or phenomena being studied; ... Another hint: some scholarly journals use a specific layout, called the "IMRaD" format, to communicate empirical research findings. Such articles typically have 4 components: Introduction: sometimes called "literature review" ...

  10. Empirical research

    For example, a thermometer will not display different temperatures for each individual who observes it. Temperature, as measured by an accurate, well calibrated thermometer, is empirical evidence. By contrast, non-empirical evidence is subjective, depending on the observer.

  11. PDF 1 Introduction

    (2) Importance of research questions Research questions are strongly highlighted, and a model of research is used which stresses their central role. They are the goal of the pre-empirical stage of the research, they provide the backbone of the empirical procedures and they are the organising principle for the report. This model (shown in ...

  12. Empirical Research: Defining, Identifying, & Finding

    Empirical Research: Defining, Identifying, & Finding Introduction The Introduction Section The Introduction exists to explain the research project and to justify why this research has been done. The introduction will discuss: The topic covered by the research, Previous research done on this topic,

  13. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

    Table of contents. Step 1: Introduce your topic. Step 2: Describe the background. Step 3: Establish your research problem. Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper. Research paper introduction examples. Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

  14. Conduct empirical research

    The sample should be somehow representative of a wider population. The ability to recreate the study and test the results. This is known as reliability. The ability to generalise from the findings to a larger sample and to other situations. The research question. The starting point for your research should be your research question.

  15. Empirical Research: Defining, Identifying, & Finding

    Empirical research methodologies can be described as quantitative, qualitative, or a mix of both (usually called mixed-methods). Ruane (2016) (UofM login required) gets at the basic differences in approach between quantitative and qualitative research: Quantitative research -- an approach to documenting reality that relies heavily on numbers both for the measurement of variables and for data ...

  16. Empirical Research Examples

    Yes or no? Evaluate these articles to determine if they are empirical research or not. Article Example 2009. "Disproportionate sales of crime guns among licensed handgun retailers in the United States: a case-control study." Injury Prevention 15, no. 5: 291-299.

  17. Empirical Research: Definition, Methods, Examples

    What are good examples of empirical research topics? These are common questions most students find themselves asking whenever a research paper instructs them to read and analyze empirical articles or evidence to answer a particular question. Such questions also arise when it comes to graduation papers and many students just ask writers to help.

  18. What is Empirical Research Study? [Examples & Method]

    [Examples & Method] The bulk of human decisions relies on evidence, that is, what can be measured or proven as valid. In choosing between plausible alternatives, individuals are more likely to tilt towards the option that is proven to work, and this is the same approach adopted in empirical research.

  19. 147 questions with answers in EMPIRICAL RESEARCH

    Answer Thank you for the clarification! I found your terminology in the starting question rather confusing. Dou you want to use phychological terms, but not carry the weight of psychological...

  20. (PDF) Empirical and Non-Empirical Methods

    Abstract. The dividing line between empirical and non-empirical methods is marked by scholars' approach to knowledge gain (i.e., epistemology). Empirical methods are positivistic and typically ...

  21. Empirical evidence

    empirical evidence, information gathered directly or indirectly through observation or experimentation that may be used to confirm or disconfirm a scientific theory or to help justify, or establish as reasonable, a person's belief in a given proposition. A belief may be said to be justified if there is sufficient evidence to make holding the belief reasonable.

  22. Definition, Types and Examples of Empirical Research

    An example of empirical analysis would be if a researcher was interested in finding out whether listening to happy music promotes prosocial behaviour. An experiment could be conducted where one group of the audience is exposed to happy music and the other is not exposed to music at all.

  23. Quora

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