Key Education Databases

Organizational Leadership

Education News and Opinion

Key Journals and E-Journal Collections

Empirical Articles

What are empirical articles?

Empirical articles report on original research. This research is based on direct observations, studies, or experiences, and can use either quantitative or qualitative research methods. Empirical articles do not simply report on or summarize research done by others.

How do I search for empirical articles?

When searching in the library databases, there are a few steps you can take to help to limit your searches to empirical articles.

The first step is to use the Scholarly/Peer-reviewed filter in the database you’re searching.

You may choose the Scholarly/Peer-reviewed selection from the Advanced Search screen:

Database advanced search screen highlighting scholarly/peer reviewed filter

Or on the left side of the search results screen:

Scholarly/peer reviewed filter to left of results



Some databases, like ERIC, have an additional filter you can use to limit your results. On the Advanced Search screen, choose Reports—Research in the Publication Type box to help limit to research articles:

ERIC advanced search screen highlighting Reports-Research filter

You can also add one or more of the following keywords to your search to help filter out unwanted results:

  • Study/studies
  • Qualitative
  • Quantitative
  • Empirical
  • Method/Methodology
  • Research
  • Findings/Results
  • Participants

You might want to try a few different combinations to get the best results.

Remember, you can link the terms with OR to tell the database to search for any one of them: (study OR empirical OR methodology)

How can I tell if I've found an empirical article?

Although the steps listed above will help to weed out a lot of the non-empirical articles, they won’t catch everything, so you’ll need to know how to recognize an empirical article.

You will usually be able to tell if you’ve found an empirical article by reading its abstract. The abstract will mention the original research conducted, talk about the methods for collecting data or observations, the number of participants, and so on.

Additionally, empirical articles will generally have a series of sections in the article, like this:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Methodology
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

The terminology for some of the sections might differ or be combined, depending on the article, but you can use the list above as a general guideline.

Check out this short video tutorial for how to recognize a research article:


For a printable version of this walk-through:

Peer-Reviewed Articles

How can I find peer reviewed articles?

Many library databases have a scholarly or peer reviewed filter you can use to limit your searches.


You can find this option on the advanced search screen:

Advanced search screen of EBSCO database highlighting the scholarly/peer reviewed sources filter


Or to the left side of your search results:

Screenshot of search results highlighting scholarly/peer reviewed filter to left of results

Once clicked, this feature limits search results to content from scholarly, peer-reviewed journals.  

*However, not every article published in a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal is a peer-reviewed article. Shorter pieces, like book reviews, editorials, and opinion pieces are often not peer reviewed, but may still appear in your search results. 

Need more help finding peer reviewed articles? Check out the short video below:

How can I determine if an article is peer reviewed?

Once you've used the scholarly/peer-reviewed filter, look at the article itself. 

Peer-reviewed articles tend to be in-depth explorations of a topic that are generally at least several pages long. They frequently contain original research, but might also be a theoretical exploration of a topic, or describe a particular program or initiative. 

Need more help recognizing scholarly/peer-reviewed articles? Watch the short video below:

What if I've found an article from somewhere outside of a library database, like Google, a course reading, or another article's reference list? How can I check to see if it's from a peer-reviewed source? 

You can use the Ulrich's Web database to check to see if a journal is peer-reviewed.

First, simply type the journal title into the Ulrichs Web search box:

Ulrichsweb search for Journal of Higher Education

Then, look for the referee icon to the left of the journal title. This will indicate that the journal is refereed, or peer-reviewed:


Screenshot of Ulrichsweb search results for the Journal of Higher Education with an arrow pointing to the referee shirt icon to the left of the journal title


Or, check out the video below to see how to verify if a journal is peer reviewed:


Qualitative/Quantitative Articles

How do I find qualitative or quantitative articles?

Unfortunately, there is no database filter to help you limit to qualitative or quantitative articles. Instead, you'll need to adjust your search terms to help you limit your results. 

To search for qualitative articles, try adding ("qualitative research" or "qualitative study") to your search.

Additionally, you can also try adding search terms related to specific qualitative methods. Here are a few you can try:

  • "Narrative research"
  • "Case study"
  • Ethnography
  • "Grounded theory"
  • "focus group interview"
  • "discourse analysis"
  • Observations

To search for quantitative studies, try adding ("quantitative research" or "quantitative study") to your search. 

Additionally, you can also try adding search terms related to specific quantitative methods. Here are a few you can try:

  • Survey or "survey instrument"
  • Experimental or quasi-experimental
  • Correlation or "correlational design"
  • Variables or factors

How can I determine if an article is qualitative or quantitative? 

First, try looking at the article's abstract. The abstract will usually indicate if the article is qualitative or quantitative. If you don't see the methods listed in the abstract, look for the methods or methodology section of the article. This section will provide a detailed description of the methods used in the research study. 

The article might not use qualitative or quantitative to describe its methods; instead, it might list a more specific type of research methodology, like case study or grounded theory. If you're not sure whether a specific methodology is quantitative or qualitative, check the SAGE Research Methods database to find out more about a particular methodology and whether it is considered qualitative or quantitative. 

How can I eliminate mixed methods studies from my search results?

There is no perfect way to remove all mixed methods studies from your search results, but you can remove some of them by adding NOT "mixed methods" to your search statement:

Database screenshot showing a search for NOT "mixed methods" 


Alternatively, you can add NOT quantitative when you're searching for qualitative studies, and NOT qualitative when searching for quantitative studies.