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Empirical Research: Defining, Identifying, & Finding

What is empirical research, how do you recognize it, and how can you improve your searches to find it?


The Results Section

The Results section provides the outcomes of the research process detailed in the Methods section. 

What Criteria to Look For

The Results section is where the authors talk about the primary data that has been collected and analyzed. Most articles will not have the complete, unanalyzed primary data, but instead have data that has already gone through some analysis for patterns, trends, and cause and effect. 

Finding the Criteria

The section is by far most-commonly called "Results," though there are a few variations such as "Findings." There may be some differences in what to look for between quantitative and qualitative research. 

Quantitative Research

  • You will be looking for data that is primarily numerical. 
  • There are likely tables and figures sharing and summarizing the data. These may also be included in appendixes at the end of the article or online. 

Qualitative Research

  • You will be looking for data that is likely textual or visual. 
  • Tables and figures may be included but are less common.
  • Some qualitative articles do not have a single Results section but provide multiple headings for the results organized by theme. 

Open Data

In some research disciplines, there is a growing movement towards open data where the authors will share their complete primary data in an online repository for other researchers to access and evaluate. In this case, the article will include where to find that open data. This is still is not standard for a lot of research, and for research on human behavior, especially qualitative research, there may be confidentiality and privacy issues that prevent sharing the primary data.


  • Abásolo & Tsuchiya (2020) 
    • Single "3. Results" heading that begins on page 91.
    • Quantitative research that includes a lot of statistical analysis. 
    • Includes two figures (Figure 2 & 3 on page 92) and one table (Table 3 on page 93), as well as additional tables and figures in online appendixes. 
  • Sosoo et al. (2019)
    • Single "Results" section that begins on page 574. It is organized into subheadings.
    • Quantitative research that includes a lot of statistical analysis. 
    • Includes 2 figures (Figure 1 & Figure 2 on page 576) and 2 tables (Table 1 on page 574 & Table 2 on page 575)
  • Lamont et al. (2018)
    • The Results section is thematically labeled "LGBTQ College Students and Hookup Culture" and starts on page 1006. There are then three subheadings organized by the themes discussed.
    • Qualitative research where the data consists of text from interview transcripts.