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This guide was created to provide a starting point for researching psychology topics.

Finding Empirical Research Articles

The APA defines an empirical study as a "study based on facts, systematic observation, or experiment, rather than theory or general philosophical principle." An empirical study may utilize quantitative or qualitative research methods. 
Empirical articles are most likely to be published in academic/scholarly journals and are usually organized following a specific format. Look for these headings when reading an article:
  • Introduction
  • Methods or Methodology
  • Results or Findings
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
Methods for finding empirical research articles

The method for finding empirical research articles varies depending upon the database* being used. 

1. The PsycARTICLES and PsycInfo databases (both from the APA) includes a Methodology filter that can be used to identify empirical studies. Look for the filter on the Advanced Search screen. To see a list and description of all of the of methodology filter options in PsycARTICLES and PsycInfo visit the APA Databases Methodology Field Values page.

Methodology filter in PsychARTICLES database

2. When using databases that do not provide a methodology filter—including ProQuest Psychology Journals and Academic Search Complete—experiment with using keywords to retrieve articles on your topic that contain empirical research. For example:

  • empirical research
  • empirical study
  • quantitative study
  • qualitative study
  • longitudinal study
  • study
  • studies
  • experiment
  • observation
  • survey
  • questionnaire
  • methods
  • methodology
  • subject
  • participants
Keywords that describe qualitative research

Qualitative research can be challenging to find as these methodologies are not always well-indexed in the databases. Here are some suggested keywords for retrieving articles that include qualitative research.

  • qualitative
  • ethnograph*
  • interview*
  • observation*
  • survey
  • questionnaire
  • "case study”
  • narrative
  • "focus group"
  • "phenomenological research"
  • "conversation analysis"

*Recommended databases are listed on the Databases: Find Journal Articles page of this guide.