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CJUS 2370: Research Methods in Criminal Justice - Dr. Beth Bjerregaard

Empirical Articles

What is an Empirical Article?

An empirical research article is an article which reports research based on actual observations or experiments. The research may use quantitative research methods, which generate numerical data and seek to establish causal relationships between two or more variables.(1) Empirical research articles may use qualitative research methods, which objectively and critically analyze behaviors, beliefs, feelings, or values with few or no numerical data available for analysis.(2)

How can I determine if I have found an empirical article?

When looking at an article or the abstract of an article, here are some guidelines to use to decide if an article is an empirical article.

  • Is the article published in an academic, scholarly, or professional journal? Popular magazines such as Business Week or Newsweek do not publish empirical research articles; academic journals such as Business Communication Quarterly or Journal of Psychology may publish empirical articles. Some professional journals, such as JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association publish empirical research. Other professional journals, such as Coach & Athletic Director publish articles of professional interest, but they do not publish research articles.
  • Does the abstract of the article mention a study, an observation, an analysis or a number of participants or subjects? Was data collected, a survey or questionnaire administered, an assessment or measurement used, an interview conducted? All of these terms indicate possible methodologies used in empirical research.
  • Empirical articles normally contain these sections:
    1. Introduction-The introduction provides a very brief summary of the research.
    2. Methodology-The method section describes how the research was conducted, including who the participants were, the design of the study, what the participants did, and what measures were used.
    3. Results-The results section describes the outcomes of the measures of the study.
    4. Discussion-The discussion section contains the interpretations and implications of the study.
    5. Conclusion-
    6. References-A reference section contains information about the articles and books cited in the report and should be substantial.
    The sections may be combined, and may have different headings or no headings at all; however, the information that would fall within these sections should be present in an empirical article.
  • How long is the article? An empirical article is usually substantial; it is normally seven or more pages long.

When in doubt if an article is an empirical research article, share the article citation and abstract with your professor or a librarian so that we can help you become better at recognizing the differences between empirical research and other types of scholarly articles.