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RCE 620: Theories and Techniques of Counseling: Empirical Research

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Empirical Research Studies

What is an empirical article?

Empirical research articles are scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles that are based on data collected during the authors' real-life experiments or observations. They are primary research documents that contain either qualitative or quantitative research methods:

  • Qualitative research focuses on collecting in-depth information from small sample sizes in order to describe a trend. Data is typically collected through one-on-one interviews with participants.
  • Quantitative research uses large, representative sample sizes to collect a variety of statistics that can then be generalized. Data is typically collected through a questionnaire, attitude scale, or achievement test.

How can I tell if an article is empirical?

Several factors can help you decide whether or not an article is empirical:

  • What type of journal/magazine was the article published in?
    • Academic journals such as Rehabilitation Psychology, the Journal of Rehabilitation, and Clinical Rehabilitation often publish empirical articles.
    • Popular magazines such as Time or Newsweek don't publish empirical articles.
    • Professional journals such as The Professional Counselor or Counselor Education and Supervision will publish empirical articles, while professional magazines (e.g., Counseling Today, Counselor, and The Career Development Quarterly) won't publish empirical articles.
  • If there's an abstract available, what does it say?
    • Did the author(s):
      • Administer a survey or questionnaire?
      • Conduct an interview?
      • Collect data?
      • Use an assessment to measure results?
    • Empirical articles include many of the above characteristics.
  • What headings or sections is the article broken down into?
    1. Introduction/Literature Review
    2. Methodology/Research Design
      • This section will include information on how the study was conducted: how it was designed, who the participants were and how they participated, and how the results were measured.
      • This information allows other researchers to replicate the study with their own participants.
    3. Results/Findings
    4. Discussion/Conclusion/Implications
    5. References
    • Although authors might combine some sections, label them differently, or not use any headings at all, empirical articles will contain all of the above information.
  • How long is the article?
    • Because empirical articles contain so many details about their studies, they tend to be longer.
    • They also contain charts, tables, and other graphics to help display the data that was collected.


College of Southern Maryland. CSM Library. (2018, Jan. 19). Empirical research article. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from

Pan, M. L. (2016). Preparing literature reviews: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (5th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Penn State University Libraries. (2019, May 9). Empirical research in the social sciences and education. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from

University of La Verne. Wilson Library. (2018, June 26). Identify empirical research articles. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from

GALILEO (and EBSCOhost databases)

Consider adding one of the following key terms to your search:

  • Case Study
  • Data Analysis
  • Empirical
  • Evaluation
  • Experiment
  • Field Study
  • Fieldwork
  • Interview
  • Investigation
  • Observation
  • Questionnaire
  • Research
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Study
  • Survey

For best results, use GALILEO's Advanced Search option.
This will let you put your chosen key term in its own search box using the AND operator.

Another option is to limit your results by type:

Psychology Database (ProQuest)

Dillon, F. R., Sheu, H.-B., Ebersole, R. C., Odera, L., Fons-Scheyd, A., & Spanierman, L. B. (2012). A dyadic study of multicultural counseling competence. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 57-66.

Kidd, S. A., Bajwa, J. K., McKenzie, K. J., Ganguli, R., & Khamneh, B. H. (2012). Cognitive remediation for individuals with psychosis in a supported education setting: A pilot study. Rehabilitation Research and Practice, 1-5.