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Psychology

This guide will introduce you to resources you can use when doing research in psychology.

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. 

A quick way to determine if a study is an example of empirical research is to 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)

Data can be collected in a variety of ways such as interviews, surveys, questionnaires, observations, and various other quantitative and qualitative research methods. 

Empirical research is typically published in scholarly journals and therefore follows a specific format. You'll find information divided into several sections: 

  • Abstract: a brief summary of the article.
  • Introduction: presents what is currently known about the topic -- usually includes discussion of previous studies -- presents research question
  • Methodology/Design: -- includes information on who (information on participants) and how (research procedures used, like interviews, surveys, questionnaires, or other methods) -- you should be able to recreate this study based on the information in this section -- if you do not see this section or information, you probably do not have an empirical research article 
  • Results/Findings: what was learned through the study -- usually appears as statistical data or as substantial quotations from research participants
  • Discussion/Conclusion/Implications: why the study is important -- usually describes how the research results influence professional practices or future studies
  • References: A list of sources discussed & cited by the authors within the article -- many of these references come from the Introduction section. 

What is a Review Article?

Review Articles are scholarly articles that provide a critical evaluation of existing studies in a field or on a topic. These articles do not provide new research but help guide the conversation on a scholarly topic by pointing out areas where more research is needed, the main people working in a field, recent discoveries, and debates. These types of articles can also be great ways to find empirical research on a topic because they will likely cite many articles in the References section.