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AAS 6010: Research Methods: Finding Empirical Articles (Sarita Davis: Fall 2023): Finding Empirical Articles

GSU Library Video Tutorial: Empirical Articles

Research Tips

Brainstorm possible search terms for your topic. You may need to simplify long phrases by breaking them up into separate search terms or smaller phrases.

Consult background information. Specialized encyclopedias, dictionaries and guides are a great time saving tool. Many of these are located in the Reference Collection on Library North 2.

These sources provide topical overviews, summarize basic concepts, and are filled with names and events you can use as keywords in your searching. Many encyclopedia articles also include carefully selected bibliographies that will lead you to additional resources.

ANDs, ORs and NOTs. You will need to combine your search terms with connecting terms (called "Boolean operators"), such as AND and OR. Use AND between terms to narrow a search and OR between terms to broaden a search. 

Remember that African American studies is interdisciplinary. Check out the research guides for related topics, such as

Be flexible as you settle on a final topic. Do a few preliminary searches in the library catalog or article databases before commiting to a topic. Make sure you can locate primary sources. You may find you need to narrow or broaden your focus.

Cite as you go. Even if you're not sure whether you will use a source, it's much easier to note the citation information up front than to decide you need it later!

What Is An Empirical Article?

For this assignment you will need to find an article that reviews empirical literature or an empirical article.

What is an empirical article?
An empirical article reports on research conducted by the authors. The research can be based on observations or experiments.  

What types of research make an article empirical?
An empirical article may report a study that used quantitative research methods, which generate numerical data and seek to establish causal relationships between two or more variables. They may also report on a study that uses qualitative research methods, which objectively and critically analyze behaviors, beliefs, feelings, or values with few or no numerical data available for analysis

How can I tell if an article is empirical?

  • Check the publication in which the article appears. Is it scholarly? Most empirical articles will be in scholarly journals.
  • Read the article's abstract. Does it include details of a study, observation, or analysis of a number of participants or subjects?
  • Look at the article itself. Is it more than three pages long? Most empirical articles will be fairly lengthy.
  • Look at the article itself. If it contains a subsection marked "Methodology" and another called "Results," it is probably empirical.

How can I search for these articles?
There is no quick way to limit your searches only to articles that review empirical studies (or to empirical studies themselves). You will have to do keyword/subject term searches, then review article abstracts in order to determine the nature of each. 

Why am I not finding empirical articles on my topic?

Scholars in arts and humanities fields use research methodologies that tend not to be identified as empirical. If you are working on a topic that aligns with one of these areas, you may need to rework your research question/thesis in a way that will align with empirical research questions. Consult your professor for help with doing this.

(CC image @

Created by Sarah Steiner, GSU's former Social Work Librarian and used with her permission; adapted.

Searching Tips

Most databases (except for APA PsycINFO!) don't have a way to search by whether or not an article uses empirical research. For this assignment, your best bet is to

  • Search the databases for articles on your chosen topic (see the Article Databases tab for links to subject-specific article databases and broader interdisciplinary article databases)
  • Use the questions from your assignment to determine whether an article is based on empirical research or not.
  • Some keywords to use in searching and/or to look for in the abstract or article
    • quantitative
    • hypothesis
    • method
    • design
    • patterns
    • statistics or statistical
  • Charts, graphs, and tables can also be useful indicators.

It will be up to you to determine whether or not an article is based on empirical research.

These searching strategies can help; but except for APA PsycINFO, most databases don't have a way to limit your search by "empiricalness."


If you’re unsure of which subject database to search in, try Academic Search Complete. This database covers a wide range of topics, and will include both scholarly and popular magazines, so:

  • Use Advanced Search
  • Select "Scholarly/Peer Reviewed"
  • Enter as many relevant keywords or subject terms as possible

Africana Studies Librarian / Humanities Instruction Librarian

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Leslie Madden
Library South
Suite 542

Getting Help: Live Assistance / Chat Reference

We offer live virtual reference assistance on weekdays. To get started, use the Chat With Us, white lettering on red background from the Live Assistance box on the library's homepage.

(note: this is just a picture -- go to to start a chat session)

You can email yourself a transcript of your chat session (helpful if the response included links)

Clicking on "Or search for an answer" will take you to a list of frequently asked questions that may also give you the answer you need.

Why APA PsycINFO is Special...

Unlike most other article databases, APA PsycINFO's Advanced Search page gives you the option of limiting your search to empirically based articles.

In the dropdown box marked "Methodology," select "EMPIRICAL STUDY."