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EEC600 - Bateman

Research in Special Education

Identifying Empirical Research Articles

Finding empirical research articles is a critical skill for graduate students. The best way to identify whether or not an article is an empirical research study is to examine the source directly and confirm that it has the key elements of such a study. A typical empirical study will have the following five sections, with the terminology sometimes varying. Sometimes introduction and literature review will be merged; sometimes either section might not be labeled. Sometimes a separate conclusions section may be added. 

Absolutely necessary are the three core sections: methods, results, discussion. Some of the typical variants are listed below. If these three components are not found in the article, it is NOT an empirical study.

Typical Sub-Headings

  1. Introduction/Literature Review
  2. Methodology / Methods / Research Design
  3. Data / Results / Findings
  4. Discussion / Interpretation / Analysis
  5. References

Empirical Study Example

  1. Early Intervention for Preschoolers at Risk for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Preschool First Step to Success

Database Filters

  1. PsycINFO - Methodology Filter - "Empirical Study"
  2. ERIC - Publication Type Filter - "Reports - Research" or "Reports - Evaluative"
  3. Education Source - no Filter; use Hints section below


  1. Choose "Scholarly" or "Peer-Reviewed" when searching a database
  2. Add the word "research" or "study" to your search keywords