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CJUS 3101: Research Methods in CJUS -

Empirical Research

Empirical Research is research that is based on experimentation or observation, i.e. Evidence.  Such research is often conducted to answer a specific question or to test a hypothesis (educated guess).


Research articles that consist of empirical research are written in a specific manner.   They are always divided into the following sections: title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references.  Each of these sections may be further divided into subsections.  One quick way to determine if you are looking at an article that consists of empirical research is to see if it has these sections.

Title – offers a brief description of the research and includes the author(s).

Abstract – is a brief but comprehensive summary of the research, usually a paragraph long. 

Introduction – this section gives background information about the research problem.  It often includes information on similar studies, explains the reason(s) for conducting the research and offers any additional information that might be needed to understand the research problem or research that is being described in the paper.  Sometimes the Introduction section isn’t titled, but it is always present.

Methods – gives a detailed description of how the research was conducted.  Some methods that could be used include surveying, experimentation and observation.  This is occasionally titled Methodology instead.

Results – the ‘answer’ to the research question.  The Results section shows, describes and analyzes the data found by the research.

Discussion – discusses the implications of the results found.  The Discussion section may also compare, contrast and discuss the data obtained to other research articles on similar topics.  It is sometimes called the Conclusion or divided into a ‘Discussion’ section and a ‘Conclusion’ section.

References – is a list of citations for other books, journal articles, reports or studies mentioned in the article. Sometimes called Works Cited or Bibliography.

Identifying empirical research

 Various phrases or keywords can identify articles that use empirical or qualitative research.  These include:

  •  Analysis
  •  Subjects
  •  Sample size
  •  Measure or measurement(s)
  •  Outcomes
  •  Qualitative Research
  •  Usage
  •  Findings
  •  Statistics
  •  Results
  •  Survey
  •  Methodology
  •  Data
  •  Original study
  • Experiment 
  •  Research study

Finding Empirical Research in Databases

Empirical research articles are published in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. These journals are easily found using databases that are specific to Criminal Justice or Psychology. Below are some of the most commonly used Criminal Justice Databases and hints for limiting your search to empirical research articles in peer-reviewed journals.

PsycINFO - Searchable abstracts and full-text journals articles, including peer-reviewed scholarly articles in the field of psychology.

To locate an Empirical Study:

  • Go to the "Advanced Search" page
  • Scroll down and select "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed)" Journals
  • Enter your search terms or phrases in separate boxes
  • In a separate box, you can add one of the phrases or keywords from the previous box
  • Hit search

PsycARTICLES - Searchable, Full-Text, Peer Reviewed Scholarly articles in the field of Psychology.  Includes 45 journals published by APA & allied organizations.   

To locate an Empirical Study:

  • Go to the "Advanced Search" page
  • Scroll down until you see the limiter  "Methodology" on left side of page
  • Select "Empirical Study"
  • Scroll to the top and enter your search terms or phrases


Criminal Justice Abstracts  - Searchable abstracts and full-text journal articles, including peer reviewed scholarly articles covering all aspect of Criminal Justice.  

Hints to narrow down your results to locate a possible Empirical study:

  • Go to the "Advanced Search" page
  • Scroll down and select "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed)" Journals
  • Scroll down and under "Publication Type" select "Academic Journal"
  • Enter your search terms or phrases in separate boxes
  • In a separate box, you can add one of the phrases or keywords from the previous box
  • Hit search


Sage Journals Online - Collection of searchable abstracts and full-text journal articles in the Social Sciences.  
*There is no ability to limit your search to an Empirical Study in this database.  In order to find an empirical study, you will need to evaluate the scholarly article and ensure that it contains all the necessary sections.  If you have any doubts or questions, you can contact your professor or ask a librarian.