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SWK 327: Social Work Research Methods: Quantitative

What is Empirical Research?

What is an empirical article?
An empirical article reports on research conducted by the author or 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 usesqualitative 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? The vast majority of 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," "discussion", and "conclusions (or recommendations)," it is probably empirical.
  • If you're still unsure, consult with your professor, or contact the library (800) 359-5945 or

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 searches, then review article abstracts in order to determine the nature of each.

Quantitative Methods for Social Work Practice

Hypothesis testing. Research Design. Measurement. Quatitative Data Collection Methods. Surveys, experiements, Single Subject Design. 

You may feel like you are swimming in new terminology, in unfamiliar waters.  What to do about it?

Jump in -- and read. The more articles you read that discuss and utilize these methods, the more comfortable you wil become with the concepts and terms. You will start to see certain patterns emerging. Patterns that makes sense, and that you can use in your professional practice in the future.

Empirical Research Articles

Empirical research reports the results of a study that uses data derived from actual observation or experimentation.  Empirical research articles are primary sources.

An empirical research article typically includes the following sections:

  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion

The following  methodologies are examples of empirical research and therefore,  primary sources:

  • Empirical study
  • Quantitative study
  • Qualitative study
  • Clinical study
  • Longitudinal study

Articles on empirical research can be accessed by completing a search in the library databases, such as PsycINFO (see below). You can locate the methodology of an article in PsycINFO by clicking on the title of the article and looking at the detailed record.

Using PsycINFO

PsycINFO is a psychology database available through the Saint Leo library.  (Step-by-step instructions on using PsycINFO for this assignment are in the documents below.)