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Selected resources in Psychology

What is an Empirical Study?

An empirical article reports the findings of a study conducted by the authors and uses data gathered from an experiment or observation. An empirical study is verifiable and "based on facts, systematic observation, or experiment, rather than theory or general philosophical principle" (APA Databases Methodology Field Values).  In other words, it tells the story of a research conducted, doing it in great detail. The study may utilize quantitative research methods to produce numerical data and seek to find a causal relationship between two or more variables. Conversely, it may use qualitative research methods, which involves collecting non-numerical data to analyze concepts, opinions, or experiences.

Key parts of an empirical article:

  • Abstract - Provides a brief overview of the research.
  • Introduction - The introduction provides a review of previous research on the topic and states the hypothesis. 
  • Methods - The methods area describes how the research was conducted, identifies the design of the study, the participants, and any measurements that were taken during the study.
  • Results - The results section describes the outcome of the study. 
  • Discussion (or conclusion) - The discussion section addresses the researchers' interpretations of their study and any future implications from their findings.
  • References - A list of works that were cited in the study.

Literature Review


A review of the published resources related to a specific issue, area of research, or specific theory. It provides a summary, description, and critical evaluation of each resource.

A literature review:

  •  Synthesizes and places into context the research and scholarly literature relevant to the topic.
  • Maps the different approaches to a given question and reveals patterns.
  • Forms the foundation for subsequent research 
  • Justifies the significance of the new investigation.
  • Contains the most pertinent studies and points to important past and current research and practices.

A Lit. Review provides background and context; it shows how your research will contribute to the field. 

There are generally five parts to a literature review:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

A literature review should: 

  • Provide a comprehensive and updated review of the literature
  • Explain why this review has taken place
  • Articulate a position or hypothesis
  • Acknowledge and account for conflicting and corroborating points of view


A lit. review's purpose is to offer an overview of the significant works published on a topic. It can be written as an introduction to a study in order to:

  • Demonstrate how a study fills a gap in research
  • Compare a study with other research that's been done

It could be a separate work (a research article on its own) that:

  • Organizes or describes a topic
  • Describes variables within a particular issue/problem

Some limitations of a literature review include:

  • It's a snapshot in time. Unlike other reviews, this one has beginning, a middle and an end. Future developments could make your work less relevant.
  • It may be too focused. Some niche studies may miss the bigger picture.
  • It can be difficult to be comprehensive. There is no way to ensure that all the literature on a topic was considered.
  • It is easy to be biased if you stick to top tier journals. There may be other places where people are publishing exemplary research. Look to open access publications and conferences to reflect a more inclusive collection. Also, make sure to include opposing views (and not just supporting evidence).

Non-Empirical Research articles focus more on theories, methods and their implications for research. Non-Empirical Research can include comprehensive reviews and articles that focus on methodology. They rely on empirical research literature as well but does not need to be essentially data-driven.