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Empirical Research in the Social Sciences and Education

Basic information, database tips, and other resources for finding empirical research, especially in Education, Psychology, and the Behavioral/Social Sciences.

Introduction

Empirical research is published in books and in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. However, most library databases do not offer straightforward ways to locate empirical research. Below are tips for some of Penn State's most popular Education and Behavioral/Social Sciences databases.

Finding Empirical Research in LionSearch

LionSearch does not have a method for locating empirical research. Using "empirical" as a keyword will find some studies, but miss many others. Consider using one of the more specialized databases below. 

Finding Empirical Research in PsycINFO (ProQuest version, for Psychology topics)

To find empirical articles in PsycINFO (ProQuest version):

  • Use the "Advanced Search"
  • Type your keywords into the search boxes
  • Scroll down the page to "Methodology," and choose "Empirical Study"
  • Choose other limits, such as publication date, if needed
  • Click on the "Search" button

Finding Empirical Research in ERIC (ProQuest version, for Education topics)

ERIC (ProQuest version) does not have a simple method to locate empirical research. Using "empirical" as a keyword will find some studies, but miss others. One technique is to search for "Research Reports":
 
  • Use the "Advanced Search"
  • Type your keywords into the search boxes
  • Scroll down the page to "Document Type," and choose "143 Reports: Research"
  • Choose other limits, such as publication date, if needed
  • Click on the "Search" button
If you prefer scholarly journals, look to the left side of the results screen. Under "Source Type," choose "Scholarly Journals"
An alternative is to use terminology recommended by the ERIC thesaurus. Some useful keywords are:
 
  • Action Research
  • Case Studies
  • Ethnography
  • Evaluation Methods
  • Evaluation Research
  • Experiments
  • Focus Groups
  • Field Studies
  • Interviews
  • Mail Surveys
  • Mixed Methods Research
  • Naturalistic Observation
  • Online Surveys
  • Participant Observation
  • Participatory Research
  • Qualitative Research
  • Questionnaires
  • Research
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Statistical Studies
  • Telephone Surveys

Finding Empirical Research in Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest version)

Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest version) does not have a simple method to locate empirical research. Using "empirical" as a keyword will find some studies, but miss others. Consider using terminology recommended by the Sociological Abstracts thesaurus. Some useful keywords are:
 
  • Case Studies
  • Empirical Methods
  • Ethnography
  • Experiments
  • Fieldwork
  • Grounded Theory
  • Interviews
  • Observation
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Research
  • Surveys

Finding Empirical Research in Criminal Justice Abstracts (EBSCO version)

Criminal Justice Abstracts (EBSCO version) does not have a simple method to locate empirical research. Using "empirical" as a keyword will find some studies, but miss others. Consider using terminology recommended by the Criminal Justice Abstracts subject index. Some useful keywords are:

  • Case Studies
  • Empirical Research
  • Interviews
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quantitative Research
  • Surveys
  • Research

Finding Empirical Research in ABI/Inform (ProQuest version, for Business topics)

To find empirical articles in ABI/Inform (ProQuest version):

  • Use the "Advanced Search"
  • Type your keywords into the search boxes
  • Choose other limits, such as publication date, if needed
  • Scoll down the page to "Classification Code," and click on "Look Up Classification Codes"
  • Within the Look Up box, click on the plus (+) sign beside "Article Treatment," and click on additional plus (+) signs to reveal various options. Check off "9130 - Experiment/Theoretical," then click on the "Add to Search" button
  • Click on the "Search" button

Finding Empirical Research in Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (ProQuest version)

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (ProQuest version) does not have a simple method to locate empirical research. Using "empirical" as a keyword will find some studies, but miss others. Consider using terminology recommended by the Worldwide Political Science Abstracts thesaurus. Some useful keywords are:

  • Case Studies
  • Empirical Methods
  • Ethnography
  • Experiments
  • Fieldwork
  • Interviews
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Questionnaires
  • Surveys

Finding Empirical Research in Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (ProQuest version)

Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (ProQuest version) does not have a simple method to locate empirical research. Using "empirical" as a keyword will find some studies, but miss others. Consider using terminology recommended by the LLBA thesaurus. Some useful keywords are:
 
  • Case Studies
  • Fieldwork
  • Interviews
  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Surveys

Finding Empirical Research in CINAHL (EBSCO version, for Nursing and Allied Health topics)

CINAHL (EBSCO version) does not have a simple method to locate empirical research. One technique is to search for "evidence-based practice" items. This method tends to find meta-analyses and systematic reviews that combine the results of numerous studies: 
 
  • Use the "Advanced Search"
  • Type your keywords into the search boxes
  • Under "Limit your results," check off "Evidence-Based Practice"
  • Choose other limits, such as published date, if needed
  • Click on the "Search" button
Another alternative is to use terminology recommended by the CINAHL Headings list. Some useful keywords are:
 
  • Empirical Research
  • Experimental Studies
  • Nonexperimental Studies
  • Qualitative Studies
  • Quantitative Studies

Finding Empirical Research in PubMed (NIH version, for health topics)

There are 2 ways to find empirical articles in PubMed (NIH version):

One technique is to limit your search results after you perform a search:

  • Type in your keywords and click on the "Search" button
  • To the left of your results, under "Article Types," click on "Customize"
  • Choose the types of studies that interest you, and click on the "Show" button

Another alternative is to construct a more sophisticated search:

  • From PubMed's main screen, click on "Advanced" link underneath the search box
  • On the Advance Search Builder screen type your keywords into the search boxes
  • Change one of the empty boxes from "All Fields" to "Publication Type"
  • To the right of Publication Type, click on "Show Index List" and choose a methodology that interests you. You can choose more than one by holding down the "Ctrl" or "⌘" on your keyboard as you click on each methodology
  • Click on the "Search" button