Writing an empirical article

What is an empirical article?

An empirical article reports on research using data collected from experiments or observations.  Such an article would give an outline of the question that the researcher is seeking to answer, how the research was conducted, the results of the research and the conclusions that could be drawn from those results.  These articles are usually published in academic journals and publications. 

Why do we write empirical articles?

Empirical articles present research findings. Other researchers and academics then review the research and ensure that there are no errors or false conclusions.  This is known as ‘peer review’.  After research is peer reviewed, it is published and accepted as a part of the body of knowledge on that topic. 

How to write an empirical article

Empirical articles are quite structured in their format with several sections that are always included.    

Introduction

This section outlines the topic and the question that the researcher aims to answer through the research.  It also outlines the reasons for researching this question, explaining how the answers could be useful or significant in some way. 

Literature Review

This is a summary of the research which has been published on this topic and the knowledge that has been developed.   You would find this by searching the databases of academic journals to find other articles on this topic.  All the research in the literature review must be cited in the text of the article and referenced in a list at the end. 

A literature review can be arranged in a thematic structure, where different aspects of the topic or different theories related to the topic are addressed one at a time. In some cases, a chronological order, with each piece or research addressed in the order in which it was published, may be more appropriate. 

Methodology

The methodology explains in detail what the researcher did to undertake the research.  Various aspects of the research have to be outlined: 

  • The overall structure and operation of the experiment or observational experience.
  • The groups studied in the research including the size of each group and any features of the subjects which may be relevant to the topic being researched. 
  • The  variables that were changed between groups and the variables measured as a result of the changes.
  • The conditions under which the research was undertaken and any factors or variations in conditions which may have an impact on the results.
  • The methods of data analysis used in order to analyse and collate the results. 
  • Any limitations of the data collected. 

Results

The results section describes the findings of the research.  When outlining these findings, it is best to give the most central findings first and then move on to the more peripheral results.  For example, the overall measure of learning would be given first and then the measures of different types of learning. 

Discussion

The discussion section looks at the implications of the findings including the impact this research has on what is already known on the topic and the practical applications of this new knowledge.  It also explains the strengths and weaknesses of the research that was undertaken. 

Reference List

This is the list of all information taken from other people’s work and cited in the article. 

Checklist for an empirical article

Have I:

  • Introduced the topic of the research and the significance of research on this topic?
  • Outlined the question that the research is seeking to answer?
  • Thoroughly researched and described the literature to establish what is already known?
  • Described the methods used to undertake the research including details of 
    • The overall structure of the research?
    • The subject populations?
    • The variables being manipulated and measured?
    • The conditions under which the research was conducted?
    • The methods of data analysis used?
    • Limitations of the data collection?
  • Outlined the results of the research?
  • Discussed the implications of those results?
  • Explained the strengths and weaknesses of the research?
  • Cited and referenced all work by other people?
  • Checked punctuation and spelling?

Further information

Purdue University - Reading Scientific Papers