Question and Answer

How do I find a good example of an empirical study?

An empirical study is based on observation and measurement.

To locate empirical studies, use a subject-specific database or a general library database like Academic Search Ultimate or Google Scholar.

Locating empirical studies takes a bit of investigation. Try these methods.

Begin by entering your keywords and conducting a search.
    For example: gardening AND mental health AND students


Since empirical studies are based on what can be observed and measured, you will need to look at article titles and abstracts for clues.  

Words to scan for or include in your search include:

  • Case Studies
  • Empirical Methods
  • Experiments
  • Fieldwork
  • Grounded Theory
  • Interviews
  • Observation
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Questionnaires
  • Research
  • Surveys



When you find words like these, it's likely a result is an empirical study. Be sure to look at the title and abstract for confirmation.

Take a look at Penn State University Libraries’ list of tips (Empirical Research in the Social Sciences and Education) for additional words that you can use to scan for this type of research.

Learn more

Another way to identify whether or not you have found an empirical study is to scan an article and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a specific research question being answered?
  • Is there a definition of the population, behavior, or phenomena being studied?
  • Is there a description of the process used to study this population or phenomena, including selection criteria, controls, and testing instruments?
  • Is there a methodology section?
  • Would it be possible to recreate this study and test these results?

Visit Empirical Research in the Social Sciences and Education from Penn State University Libraries to learn more about empirical studies.



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