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Identifying Empirical Research Articles

a guide to finding and identifying empirical research

What is Empirical Research?


An empirical research article reports the results of a study that uses data derived from actual observation or experimentation. Empirical research articles are examples of primary research. To learn more about the differences between primary and secondary research, see our related guide:


By the end of this guide, you will be able to:

  • Identify common elements of an empirical article
  • Use a variety of search strategies to search for empirical articles within the library collection

Identifying Empirical Articles

Identifying Empirical Research Articles

Look for the IMRaD layout in the article to help identify empirical research. Sometimes the sections will be labeled differently, but the content will be similar. 

  • Introduction: why the article was written, research question or questions, hypothesis, literature review
  • Methods: the overall research design and implementation, description of sample, instruments used, how the authors measured their experiment
  • Results: output of the author's measurements, usually includes statistics of the author's findings
  • Discussion: the author's interpretation and conclusions about the results, limitations of study, suggestions for further research

Parts of an Empirical Research Article

Parts of an Empirical Article

The screenshots below identify the basic IMRaD structure of an empirical research article. 


The introduction contains a literature review and the study's research hypothesis.



The method section outlines the research design, participants, and measures used.



The results section contains statistical data (charts, graphs, tables, etc.) and research participant quotes.



The discussion section includes impacts, limitations, future considerations, and research.

Learn the IMRaD Layout: How to Identify an Empirical Article

This short video overviews the IMRaD method for identifying empirical research.