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Identifying Empirical Research Articles

a guide to finding and identifying empirical research

Where to find empirical research articles

Finding Empirical Research

When searching for empirical research, it can be helpful to use terms that relate to the method used in empirical research in addition to keywords that describe your topic. For example: 

  • (generalized anxiety AND treatment*) AND (randomized clinical trial* OR clinical trial*)

You might also try using terms related to the type of instrument used:

  • (generalized anxiety AND intervention*) AND (survey OR questionnaire)

You can also narrow your results to peer-review. Usually databases have a peer-review check box that you can select. To learn more about peer review, see our related guide:

Searching by Methodology

Some databases give you the option to do an advanced search by methodology, where you can choose "empirical study" as a type. Here's an example from PsycInfo: 

screenshot of PsycInfo advanced search page that highlights the methodology filter.

Other filters includes things like document type, age group, population, language, and target audience. You can use these to narrow your search and get more relevant results.

Databasics: How to Filter by Methodology in ProQuest's PsycInfo + PsycArticles

Part of our Databasics YouTube series, this short video shows you how to limit by methodology in ProQuest's PsycInfo + PsycArticles database.


Information in this guide adapted from Boston College Libraries' guide to "Finding Empirical Research"; Brandeis Library's "Finding Empirical Studies"; and CSUSM's "How do I know if a research article is empirical?"