How to Find Empirical Articles

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Every student of physical or social sciences reads empirical papers describing the results of an experiment or systematic observations and measurements. An empirical paper can either support an existing theory or proposes another. However, empirical papers must satisfy the criterion of falsifiability. That is, another researcher working independently, should be able, in theory, to disprove the results. For example, a paper on “does breast-feeding have an effect on intelligence?” can be empirical because it can be proved or disproved using experiments.

1 Consult a peer-reviewed journal

Consult a peer-reviewed journal. Modern academia is vast, so you will need to narrow down your research topic to a particular field such as Psychology or Chemistry, and dig deeper into their sub-fields.

2 Access

Access a database of journals and search for your topic of interest. The easiest way to get access is through a university or library. Ask the librarian about accessing databases such as ProQuest, EbscoHost, PsycINFO and Science Direct.

3 Read the abstract

Read the abstract to determine whether it is an empirical paper. An abstract summarizes the research question, methodology, results, and conclusion in less than a page.

4 Check the methodology section

Check the “methodology” section of a journal article to verify that it is an empirical article. The “methodology” section describes how the research was conducted. Skim the “introduction” and the “conclusion” section to determine whether it is based on experiments and systematic observation.

5 Look

Look for keywords such as “study”, “experiment”, “research” and “findings” in newspaper and magazine articles. Empirical academic studies are often picked up by newspapers and magazines and summarized in jargon-free language. Magazines focused on science and social science, such as “Scientific American” and “The Economist” tend to report on empirical research more than general-interest magazines such as “Time” and “Newsweek.”

Kiran Gaunle is a freelancer based in New York. He started writing professionally in 2006. He has written research reports for the UN Development Programme and the "Kathmandu Post." Gaunle is working on a book of short stories and a novel. He holds a Master of Arts in international political economy and development from Fordham University.