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Empirical Research: Advantages, Drawbacks and Differences with Non-Empirical Research

Based on the purpose and available resources, researchers conduct empirical or non-empirical research. Researchers employ both of these methods in various fields using qualitative, quantitative, or secondary data. Let's look at the characteristics of empirical research and see how it is different from non-empirical research.

The empirical study is evidence-based research. That is to say, it uses evidence, experiment, or observation to test the hypotheses. It is a systematic collection and analysis of data. Empirical research allows researchers to find new and thorough insights into the issue.  Mariam-Webster dictionary defines the word "empirical" as:

                "originating in or based on observation or experience"

               "relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory"

               "capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment"

Unlike non-empirical research, it does not just rely on theories but also tries to find the reasoning behind those theories in order to prove them. Non-empirical research is based on theories and logic, and researchers don't attempt to test them.  Although empirical research mostly depends on primary data, secondary data can also be beneficial for the theory side of the research.  The empirical research process includes the following:

  • Defining the issue
  • Theory generation and research questions
  • If available, studying existing theories about the issue
  • Choosing appropriate data collection methods  such as experiment or observation
  • Data gathering
  • Data coding , analysis, and evaluation
  • Data Interpretation and result
  • Reporting and publishing  the findings

Benefits of empirical research

  • Empirical research aims to find the meaning behind a particular phenomenon. In other words, it seeks answers to how and why something works the way it is.
  • By identifying the reasons why something happens, it is possible to replicate or prevent similar events.
  • The flexibility of the research allows the researchers to change certain aspects of the research and adjust them to new goals. 
  • It is more reliable because it represents a real-life experience and not just theories.
  • Data collected through empirical research may be less biased because the researcher is there during the collection process. In contrast, it is sometimes impossible to verify the accuracy of data in non-empirical research.

Drawbacks of empirical research

  • It can be time-consuming depending on the research subject.
  • It is not a cost-effective way of data collection in most cases because of the possible expensive methods of data gathering. Moreover, it may require traveling between multiple locations.
  • Lack of evidence and research subjects may not yield the desired result. A small sample size prevents generalization because it may not be enough to represent the target audience.
  • It isn't easy to get information on sensitive topics, and also, researchers may need participants' consent to use the data.

In most scientific fields, acting based solely on theories (or logic) is not enough. Empirical research makes it possible to measure the reliability of the theory before applying it. Researchers sometimes alternate between the two forms of research, as non-empirical research provides them with important information about the phenomenon, while empirical research helps them use that information to test the theory.

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Introduction: What is Empirical Research?

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Empirical research  is based on phenomena that can be observed and measured. Empirical research derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief. 

Key characteristics of empirical research include:

  • Specific research questions to be answered;
  • Definitions of the population, behavior, or phenomena being studied;
  • Description of the methodology or research design used to study this population or phenomena, including selection criteria, controls, and testing instruments (such as surveys);
  • Two basic research processes or methods in empirical research: quantitative methods and qualitative methods (see the rest of the guide for more about these methods).

(based on the original from the Connelly LIbrary of LaSalle University)

empirical vs non empirical research

Empirical Research: Qualitative vs. Quantitative

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Quantitative Research

A quantitative research project is characterized by having a population about which the researcher wants to draw conclusions, but it is not possible to collect data on the entire population.

  • For an observational study, it is necessary to select a proper, statistical random sample and to use methods of statistical inference to draw conclusions about the population. 
  • For an experimental study, it is necessary to have a random assignment of subjects to experimental and control groups in order to use methods of statistical inference.

Statistical methods are used in all three stages of a quantitative research project.

For observational studies, the data are collected using statistical sampling theory. Then, the sample data are analyzed using descriptive statistical analysis. Finally, generalizations are made from the sample data to the entire population using statistical inference.

For experimental studies, the subjects are allocated to experimental and control group using randomizing methods. Then, the experimental data are analyzed using descriptive statistical analysis. Finally, just as for observational data, generalizations are made to a larger population.

Iversen, G. (2004). Quantitative research . In M. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Liao (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social science research methods . (pp. 897-898). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Qualitative Research

What makes a work deserving of the label qualitative research is the demonstrable effort to produce richly and relevantly detailed descriptions and particularized interpretations of people and the social, linguistic, material, and other practices and events that shape and are shaped by them.

Qualitative research typically includes, but is not limited to, discerning the perspectives of these people, or what is often referred to as the actor’s point of view. Although both philosophically and methodologically a highly diverse entity, qualitative research is marked by certain defining imperatives that include its case (as opposed to its variable) orientation, sensitivity to cultural and historical context, and reflexivity. 

In its many guises, qualitative research is a form of empirical inquiry that typically entails some form of purposive sampling for information-rich cases; in-depth interviews and open-ended interviews, lengthy participant/field observations, and/or document or artifact study; and techniques for analysis and interpretation of data that move beyond the data generated and their surface appearances. 

Sandelowski, M. (2004).  Qualitative research . In M. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Liao (Eds.),  Encyclopedia of social science research methods . (pp. 893-894). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

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  • What is Empirical Research Study? [Examples & Method]

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The bulk of human decisions relies on evidence, that is, what can be measured or proven as valid. In choosing between plausible alternatives, individuals are more likely to tilt towards the option that is proven to work, and this is the same approach adopted in empirical research. 

In empirical research, the researcher arrives at outcomes by testing his or her empirical evidence using qualitative or quantitative methods of observation, as determined by the nature of the research. An empirical research study is set apart from other research approaches by its methodology and features hence; it is important for every researcher to know what constitutes this investigation method. 

What is Empirical Research? 

Empirical research is a type of research methodology that makes use of verifiable evidence in order to arrive at research outcomes. In other words, this  type of research relies solely on evidence obtained through observation or scientific data collection methods. 

Empirical research can be carried out using qualitative or quantitative observation methods , depending on the data sample, that is, quantifiable data or non-numerical data . Unlike theoretical research that depends on preconceived notions about the research variables, empirical research carries a scientific investigation to measure the experimental probability of the research variables 

Characteristics of Empirical Research

  • Research Questions

An empirical research begins with a set of research questions that guide the investigation. In many cases, these research questions constitute the research hypothesis which is tested using qualitative and quantitative methods as dictated by the nature of the research.

In an empirical research study, the research questions are built around the core of the research, that is, the central issue which the research seeks to resolve. They also determine the course of the research by highlighting the specific objectives and aims of the systematic investigation. 

  • Definition of the Research Variables

The research variables are clearly defined in terms of their population, types, characteristics, and behaviors. In other words, the data sample is clearly delimited and placed within the context of the research. 

  • Description of the Research Methodology

 An empirical research also clearly outlines the methods adopted in the systematic investigation. Here, the research process is described in detail including the selection criteria for the data sample, qualitative or quantitative research methods plus testing instruments. 

An empirical research is usually divided into 4 parts which are the introduction, methodology, findings, and discussions. The introduction provides a background of the empirical study while the methodology describes the research design, processes, and tools for the systematic investigation. 

The findings refer to the research outcomes and they can be outlined as statistical data or in the form of information obtained through the qualitative observation of research variables. The discussions highlight the significance of the study and its contributions to knowledge. 

Uses of Empirical Research

Without any doubt, empirical research is one of the most useful methods of systematic investigation. It can be used for validating multiple research hypotheses in different fields including Law, Medicine, and Anthropology. 

  • Empirical Research in Law : In Law, empirical research is used to study institutions, rules, procedures, and personnel of the law, with a view to understanding how they operate and what effects they have. It makes use of direct methods rather than secondary sources, and this helps you to arrive at more valid conclusions.
  • Empirical Research in Medicine : In medicine, empirical research is used to test and validate multiple hypotheses and increase human knowledge.
  • Empirical Research in Anthropology : In anthropology, empirical research is used as an evidence-based systematic method of inquiry into patterns of human behaviors and cultures. This helps to validate and advance human knowledge.
Discover how Extrapolation Powers statistical research: Definition, examples, types, and applications explained.

The Empirical Research Cycle

The empirical research cycle is a 5-phase cycle that outlines the systematic processes for conducting and empirical research. It was developed by Dutch psychologist, A.D. de Groot in the 1940s and it aligns 5 important stages that can be viewed as deductive approaches to empirical research. 

In the empirical research methodological cycle, all processes are interconnected and none of the processes is more important than the other. This cycle clearly outlines the different phases involved in generating the research hypotheses and testing these hypotheses systematically using the empirical data. 

  • Observation: This is the process of gathering empirical data for the research. At this stage, the researcher gathers relevant empirical data using qualitative or quantitative observation methods, and this goes ahead to inform the research hypotheses.
  • Induction: At this stage, the researcher makes use of inductive reasoning in order to arrive at a general probable research conclusion based on his or her observation. The researcher generates a general assumption that attempts to explain the empirical data and s/he goes on to observe the empirical data in line with this assumption.
  • Deduction: This is the deductive reasoning stage. This is where the researcher generates hypotheses by applying logic and rationality to his or her observation.
  • Testing: Here, the researcher puts the hypotheses to test using qualitative or quantitative research methods. In the testing stage, the researcher combines relevant instruments of systematic investigation with empirical methods in order to arrive at objective results that support or negate the research hypotheses.
  • Evaluation: The evaluation research is the final stage in an empirical research study. Here, the research outlines the empirical data, the research findings and the supporting arguments plus any challenges encountered during the research process.

This information is useful for further research. 

Learn about qualitative data: uncover its types and examples here.

Examples of Empirical Research 

  • An empirical research study can be carried out to determine if listening to happy music improves the mood of individuals. The researcher may need to conduct an experiment that involves exposing individuals to happy music to see if this improves their moods.

The findings from such an experiment will provide empirical evidence that confirms or refutes the hypotheses. 

  • An empirical research study can also be carried out to determine the effects of a new drug on specific groups of people. The researcher may expose the research subjects to controlled quantities of the drug and observe research subjects to controlled quantities of the drug and observe the effects over a specific period of time to gather empirical data.
  • Another example of empirical research is measuring the levels of noise pollution found in an urban area to determine the average levels of sound exposure experienced by its inhabitants. Here, the researcher may have to administer questionnaires or carry out a survey in order to gather relevant data based on the experiences of the research subjects.
  • Empirical research can also be carried out to determine the relationship between seasonal migration and the body mass of flying birds. A researcher may need to observe the birds and carry out necessary observation and experimentation in order to arrive at objective outcomes that answer the research question.

Empirical Research Data Collection Methods

Empirical data can be gathered using qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. Quantitative data collection methods are used for numerical data gathering while qualitative data collection processes are used to gather empirical data that cannot be quantified, that is, non-numerical data. 

The following are common methods of gathering data in empirical research

  • Survey/ Questionnaire

A survey is a method of data gathering that is typically employed by researchers to gather large sets of data from a specific number of respondents with regards to a research subject. This method of data gathering is often used for quantitative data collection , although it can also be deployed during quantitative research.

A survey contains a set of questions that can range from close-ended to open-ended questions together with other question types that revolve around the research subject. A survey can be administered physically or with the use of online data-gathering platforms like Formplus. 

Empirical data can also be collected by carrying out an experiment. An experiment is a controlled simulation in which one or more of the research variables is manipulated using a set of interconnected processes in order to confirm or refute the research hypotheses.

An experiment is a useful method of measuring causality; that is cause and effect between dependent and independent variables in a research environment. It is an integral data gathering method in an empirical research study because it involves testing calculated assumptions in order to arrive at the most valid data and research outcomes. 

T he case study method is another common data gathering method in an empirical research study. It involves sifting through and analyzing relevant cases and real-life experiences about the research subject or research variables in order to discover in-depth information that can serve as empirical data.

  • Observation

The observational method is a method of qualitative data gathering that requires the researcher to study the behaviors of research variables in their natural environments in order to gather relevant information that can serve as empirical data.

How to collect Empirical Research Data with Questionnaire

With Formplus, you can create a survey or questionnaire for collecting empirical data from your research subjects. Formplus also offers multiple form sharing options so that you can share your empirical research survey to research subjects via a variety of methods.

Here is a step-by-step guide of how to collect empirical data using Formplus:

Sign in to Formplus

empirical-research-data-collection

In the Formplus builder, you can easily create your empirical research survey by dragging and dropping preferred fields into your form. To access the Formplus builder, you will need to create an account on Formplus. 

Once you do this, sign in to your account and click on “Create Form ” to begin. 

Unlock the secrets of Quantitative Data: Click here to explore the types and examples.

Edit Form Title

Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, “Empirical Research Survey”.

empirical-research-questionnaire

Edit Form  

  • Click on the edit button to edit the form.
  • Add Fields: Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. There are several field input options for survey forms in the Formplus builder.
  • Edit fields
  • Click on “Save”
  • Preview form.

empirical-research-survey

Customize Form

Formplus allows you to add unique features to your empirical research survey form. You can personalize your survey using various customization options. Here, you can add background images, your organization’s logo, and use other styling options. You can also change the display theme of your form. 

empirical-research-questionnaire

  • Share your Form Link with Respondents

Formplus offers multiple form sharing options which enables you to easily share your empirical research survey form with respondents. You can use the direct social media sharing buttons to share your form link to your organization’s social media pages. 

You can send out your survey form as email invitations to your research subjects too. If you wish, you can share your form’s QR code or embed it on your organization’s website for easy access. 

formplus-form-share

Empirical vs Non-Empirical Research

Empirical and non-empirical research are common methods of systematic investigation employed by researchers. Unlike empirical research that tests hypotheses in order to arrive at valid research outcomes, non-empirical research theorizes the logical assumptions of research variables. 

Definition: Empirical research is a research approach that makes use of evidence-based data while non-empirical research is a research approach that makes use of theoretical data. 

Method: In empirical research, the researcher arrives at valid outcomes by mainly observing research variables, creating a hypothesis and experimenting on research variables to confirm or refute the hypothesis. In non-empirical research, the researcher relies on inductive and deductive reasoning to theorize logical assumptions about the research subjects.

The major difference between the research methodology of empirical and non-empirical research is while the assumptions are tested in empirical research, they are entirely theorized in non-empirical research. 

Data Sample: Empirical research makes use of empirical data while non-empirical research does not make use of empirical data. Empirical data refers to information that is gathered through experience or observation. 

Unlike empirical research, theoretical or non-empirical research does not rely on data gathered through evidence. Rather, it works with logical assumptions and beliefs about the research subject. 

Data Collection Methods : Empirical research makes use of quantitative and qualitative data gathering methods which may include surveys, experiments, and methods of observation. This helps the researcher to gather empirical data, that is, data backed by evidence.  

Non-empirical research, on the other hand, does not make use of qualitative or quantitative methods of data collection . Instead, the researcher gathers relevant data through critical studies, systematic review and meta-analysis. 

Advantages of Empirical Research 

  • Empirical research is flexible. In this type of systematic investigation, the researcher can adjust the research methodology including the data sample size, data gathering methods plus the data analysis methods as necessitated by the research process.
  • It helps the research to understand how the research outcomes can be influenced by different research environments.
  • Empirical research study helps the researcher to develop relevant analytical and observation skills that can be useful in dynamic research contexts.
  • This type of research approach allows the researcher to control multiple research variables in order to arrive at the most relevant research outcomes.
  • Empirical research is widely considered as one of the most authentic and competent research designs.
  • It improves the internal validity of traditional research using a variety of experiments and research observation methods.

Disadvantages of Empirical Research 

  • An empirical research study is time-consuming because the researcher needs to gather the empirical data from multiple resources which typically takes a lot of time.
  • It is not a cost-effective research approach. Usually, this method of research incurs a lot of cost because of the monetary demands of the field research.
  • It may be difficult to gather the needed empirical data sample because of the multiple data gathering methods employed in an empirical research study.
  • It may be difficult to gain access to some communities and firms during the data gathering process and this can affect the validity of the research.
  • The report from an empirical research study is intensive and can be very lengthy in nature.

Conclusion 

Empirical research is an important method of systematic investigation because it gives the researcher the opportunity to test the validity of different assumptions, in the form of hypotheses, before arriving at any findings. Hence, it is a more research approach. 

There are different quantitative and qualitative methods of data gathering employed during an empirical research study based on the purpose of the research which include surveys, experiments, and various observatory methods. Surveys are one of the most common methods or empirical data collection and they can be administered online or physically. 

You can use Formplus to create and administer your online empirical research survey. Formplus allows you to create survey forms that you can share with target respondents in order to obtain valuable feedback about your research context, question or subject. 

In the form builder, you can add different fields to your survey form and you can also modify these form fields to suit your research process. Sign up to Formplus to access the form builder and start creating powerful online empirical research survey forms. 

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Empirical Research

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empirical vs non empirical research

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The term “empirical” entails gathered data based on experience, observations, or experimentation. In empirical research, knowledge is developed from factual experience as opposed to theoretical assumption and usually involved the use of data sources like datasets or fieldwork, but can also be based on observations within a laboratory setting. Testing hypothesis or answering definite questions is a primary feature of empirical research. Empirical research, in other words, involves the process of employing working hypothesis that are tested through experimentation or observation. Hence, empirical research is a method of uncovering empirical evidence.

Through the process of gathering valid empirical data, scientists from a variety of fields, ranging from the social to the natural sciences, have to carefully design their methods. This helps to ensure quality and accuracy of data collection and treatment. However, any error in empirical data collection process could inevitably render such...

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Njoku, E.T. (2020). Empirical Research. In: Leeming, D.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_200051

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Introduction: What is Empirical Research?

Empirical research is based on observed and measured phenomena and derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief. 

How do you know if a study is empirical? Read the subheadings within the article, book, or report and look for a description of the research "methodology."  Ask yourself: Could I recreate this study and test these results?

Key characteristics to look for:

  • Specific research questions to be answered
  • Definition of the population, behavior, or   phenomena being studied
  • Description of the process used to study this population or phenomena, including selection criteria, controls, and testing instruments (such as surveys)

Another hint: some scholarly journals use a specific layout, called the "IMRaD" format, to communicate empirical research findings. Such articles typically have 4 components:

  • Introduction : sometimes called "literature review" -- what is currently known about the topic -- usually includes a theoretical framework and/or discussion of previous studies
  • Methodology: sometimes called "research design" -- how to recreate the study -- usually describes the population, research process, and analytical tools used in the present study
  • Results : sometimes called "findings" -- what was learned through the study -- usually appears as statistical data or as substantial quotations from research participants
  • Discussion : sometimes called "conclusion" or "implications" -- why the study is important -- usually describes how the research results influence professional practices or future studies

Reading and Evaluating Scholarly Materials

Reading research can be a challenge. However, the tutorials and videos below can help. They explain what scholarly articles look like, how to read them, and how to evaluate them:

  • CRAAP Checklist A frequently-used checklist that helps you examine the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose of an information source.
  • IF I APPLY A newer model of evaluating sources which encourages you to think about your own biases as a reader, as well as concerns about the item you are reading.
  • Credo Video: How to Read Scholarly Materials (4 min.)
  • Credo Tutorial: How to Read Scholarly Materials
  • Credo Tutorial: Evaluating Information
  • Credo Video: Evaluating Statistics (4 min.)
  • Next: Finding Empirical Research in Library Databases >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 18, 2024 8:33 PM
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COMMENTS

  1. What is Non-Empirical Research?

    Non-empirical research articles focus more on theories, methods, well-supported opinions, and their implications for research. Non-empirical research includes comprehensive review or analysis of journal literature or articles that focus on methodology.

  2. (PDF) Empirical and Non-Empirical Methods

    The dividing line between empirical and non-empirical methods is marked by scholars’ approach to knowledge gain (i.e., epistemology).

  3. Empirical Research: Advantages, Drawbacks and Differences with ...

    Let's look at the characteristics of empirical research and see how it is different from non-empirical research. The empirical study is evidence-based research. That is to say, it uses evidence, experiment, or observation to test the hypotheses. It is a systematic collection and analysis of data.

  4. Empirical Research

    Empirical research derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief. Key characteristics of empirical research include: Specific research questions to be answered; Definitions of the population, behavior, or phenomena being studied;

  5. Empirical and Nonempirical Methods

    The dividing line between empirical and nonempirical methods is marked by scholars' approach to knowledge gain (i.e., epistemology). Empirical methods typically involve systematic collection and analysis of data (i.e., observation and evidence).

  6. What is Empirical Research Study? [Examples & Method]

    Definition: Empirical research is a research approach that makes use of evidence-based data while non-empirical research is a research approach that makes use of theoretical data. Method: In empirical research, the researcher arrives at valid outcomes by mainly observing research variables, creating a hypothesis and experimenting on research ...

  7. Empirical Research

    Empirical research is systematized so that the data collected can be specifically tailored to the research question or questions. It addresses key inquiries deemed critical, as it helps in producing insight about a specific issue of interest to the researcher.

  8. Empirical Research in the Social Sciences and Education

    Empirical research is based on observed and measured phenomena and derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief. How do you know if a study is empirical? Read the subheadings within the article, book, or report and look for a description of the research "methodology."