Empirical Research

28th January 2021 0 By indiafreenotes

Empirical research is research using empirical evidence. It is also a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience. Empiricism values some research more than other kinds. Empirical evidence (the record of one’s direct observations or experiences) can be analyzed quantitatively or qualitatively. Quantifying the evidence or making sense of it in qualitative form, a researcher can answer empirical questions, which should be clearly defined and answerable with the evidence collected (usually called data). Research design varies by field and by the question being investigated. Many researchers combine qualitative and quantitative forms of analysis to better answer questions which cannot be studied in laboratory settings, particularly in the social sciences and in education.

In some fields, quantitative research may begin with a research question (e.g., “Does listening to vocal music during the learning of a word list have an effect on later memory for these words?”) which is tested through experimentation. Usually, the researcher has a certain theory regarding the topic under investigation. Based on this theory, statements or hypotheses will be proposed (e.g., “Listening to vocal music has a negative effect on learning a word list.”). From these hypotheses, predictions about specific events are derived (e.g., “People who study a word list while listening to vocal music will remember fewer words on a later memory test than people who study a word list in silence.”). These predictions can then be tested with a suitable experiment. Depending on the outcomes of the experiment, the theory on which the hypotheses and predictions were based will be supported or not, or may need to be modified and then subjected to further testing.


  • A research question, which will determine research objectives.
  • A particular and planned design for the research, which will depend on the question and which will find ways of answering it with appropriate use of resources.
  • The gathering of primary data, which is then analysed.
  • A particular methodology for collecting and analysing the data, such as an experiment or survey.
  • The limitation of the data to a particular group, area or time scale, known as a sample: for example, a specific number of employees of a particular company type, or all users of a library over a given time scale. The sample should be somehow representative of a wider population.
  • The ability to recreate the study and test the results. This is known as reliability.
  • The ability to generalise from the findings to a larger sample and to other situations.


The researcher attempts to describe accurately the interaction between the instrument (or the human senses) and the entity being observed. If instrumentation is involved, the researcher is expected to calibrate his/her instrument by applying it to known standard objects and documenting the results before applying it to unknown objects. In other words, it describes the research that has not taken place before and their results.

In practice, the accumulation of evidence for or against any particular theory involves planned research designs for the collection of empirical data, and academic rigor plays a large part of judging the merits of research design. Several typologies for such designs have been suggested, one of the most popular of which comes from Campbell and Stanley. They are responsible for popularizing the widely cited distinction among pre-experimental, experimental, and quasi-experimental designs and are staunch advocates of the central role of randomized experiments in educational research.

Types and methodologies of empirical research

Empirical research can be conducted and analysed using qualitative or quantitative methods.

  • Quantitative research: Quantitative research methods are used to gather information through numerical data. It is used to quantify opinions, behaviors or other defined variables. These are predetermined and are in a more structured format. Some of the commonly used methods are survey, longitudinal studies, polls, etc
  • Qualitative research: Qualitative research methods are used to gather non numerical data. It is used to find meanings, opinions, or the underlying reasons from its subjects. These methods are unstructured or semi structured. The sample size for such a research is usually small and it is a conversational type of method to provide more insight or in-depth information about the problem Some of the most popular forms of methods are focus groups, experiments, interviews, etc.

Quantitative research methods

Quantitative research methods aid in analyzing the empirical evidence gathered. By using these a researcher can find out if his hypothesis is supported or not.

  • Survey research: Survey research generally involves a large audience to collect a large amount of data. This is a quantitative method having a predetermined set of closed questions which are pretty easy to answer. Because of the simplicity of such a method, high responses are achieved. It is one of the most commonly used methods for all kinds of research in today’s world.
  • Experimental research: In experimental research, an experiment is set up and a hypothesis is tested by creating a situation in which one of the variable is manipulated. This is also used to check cause and effect. It is tested to see what happens to the independent variable if the other one is removed or altered. The process for such a method is usually proposing a hypothesis, experimenting on it, analyzing the findings and reporting the findings to understand if it supports the theory or not.
  • Correlational research: Correlational research is used to find relation between two set of variables. Regression is generally used to predict outcomes of such a method. It can be positive, negative or neutral correlation.
  • Longitudinal study: Longitudinal study is used to understand the traits or behavior of a subject under observation after repeatedly testing the subject over a period of time. Data collected from such a method can be qualitative or quantitative in nature.
  • Cross sectional: Cross sectional study is an observational type of method, in which a set of audience is observed at a given point in time. In this type, the set of people are chosen in a fashion which depicts similarity in all the variables except the one which is being researched. This type does not enable the researcher to establish a cause-and-effect relationship as it is not observed for a continuous time period. It is majorly used by healthcare sector or the retail industry.
  • Causal-Comparative research: This method is based on comparison. It is mainly used to find out cause-effect relationship between two variables or even multiple variables.

Qualitative research methods

Some research questions need to be analysed qualitatively, as quantitative methods are not applicable there. In many cases, in-depth information is needed or a researcher may need to observe a target audience behavior, hence the results needed are in a descriptive form. Qualitative research results will be descriptive rather than predictive. It enables the researcher to build or support theories for future potential quantitative research. In such a situation qualitative research method are used to derive a conclusion to support the theory or hypothesis being studied.

  • Case study: Case study method is used to find more information through carefully analyzing existing cases. It is very often used for business research or to gather empirical evidence for investigation purpose. It is a method to investigate a problem within its real-life context through existing cases. The researcher has to carefully analyse making sure the parameter and variables in the existing case are the same as to the case that is being investigated. Using the findings from the case study, conclusions can be drawn regarding the topic that is being studied.
  • Textual Analysis: This primarily involves the process of describing, interpreting, and understanding textual content. It typically seeks to connect the text to a broader artistic, cultural, political, or social context (Fairclough, 2003).

A relatively new research method, textual analysis is often used nowadays to elaborate on the trends and patterns of media content, especially social media. Data obtained from this approach are primarily used to determine customer buying habits and preferences for product development, and designing marketing campaigns.

  • Focus Groups:

A focus group is a thoroughly planned discussion guided by a moderator and conducted to derive opinions on a designated topic. Essentially a group interview or collective conversation, this method offers a notably meaningful approach to think through particular issues or concerns.

This research method is used when a researcher wants to know the answers to “how,” “what,” and “why” questions. Nowadays, focus groups are among the most widely used methods by consumer product producers for designing and/or improving products that people prefer.

  • Observational method: Observational method is a process to observe and gather data from its target. Since it is a qualitative method it is time consuming and very personal. It can be said that observational method is a part of ethnographic research which is also used to gather empirical evidence. This is usually a qualitative form of research, however in some cases it can be quantitative as well depending on what is being studied.
  • One-on-one interview: Such a method is purely qualitative and one of the most widely used. The reason being it enables a researcher get precise meaningful data if the right questions are asked. It is a conversational method where in-depth data can be gathered depending on where the conversation leads.