Characteristics to look for in empirically based research:
Identifies a problem, population, or research question under study
Methodology is stated
Alternate course of action may be included
Defines the group or issue being studied
May be quantitative or qualitative [check with your course instructor or syllabus, as the course focus may be on just one or the other]
May include tests or surveys (embedded, as an appendix, or referred to by Proper Name)
May be reproducible; to be replicated or adapted to a new study
Some databases have a filter or advanced search limiter to focus results on empirical research. See the database descriptions elsewhere on this page for details.
If a filter/limiter is not available, enter keywords to match on appropriate content and/or to look for these terms in the summary abstract or article itself:
|Research Type||Definition||Title Words||Methods||Data||Researcher Role|
|Quantitative||Research based on traditional scientific methods, which generates numerical data and usually seeks to establish causal relationships between two or more variables, using statistical methods to test the strength and significance of the relationships.||
Case Control Study, Clinical Trial, Cohort Study, Randomized Controlled Trial, Statistical, Structured-Questionnaire
|Starts with a testable hypothesis that determines methodology, Collects and analyzes data, Uses mathematical and statistical methods to analyze data.||Measurable, numbers, statistics||Objective: Separate, Observes but does not participate.|
|Qualitative||Research that seeks to provide understanding of human experience, perceptions, motivations, intentions, and behaviours based on description and observation and utilizing a naturalistic interpretative approach to a subject and its contextual setting.||Ethnographic study, Field notes, Field Research, Focus group, Observation, Open ended, Phenomenological||Focus Groups, Interviews, Recording behavior, Unstructured observation||Idea, interpretive, Narrative Description and analysis, Text-based, Word analysis||Subjective: involved, participant observer|
Review articles are common in health literature. They are typically overviews of literature found on topics, but do not go so far as to meet the methodological requirements for a Systematic Review.
These articles may contain some critical analysis, but will not have the rigorous criteria that a Systematic Review does. They can be used to demonstrate evidence, albeit they do not make a very strong case as they are secondary articles and not originally conducted observational or experimental research.
Many Systematic Reviews Contain Meta-Analysis and will specify so, usually in the title.
Example: Researchers want to know what the rate of depression is in overweight women of Latin American heritage and examine self-reported sociocultural factors involved in their mental health. They conduct a literature search, exactly like researchers might do for a Systematic Review (see above) and do a quantitative analysis of the data using advanced statistical methods to synthesize conclusions from the numbers aggregated from a variety of studies.