In research, a question that can be answered by collecting data from observation and experience is called an empirical question. Such questions are addressed by a corresponding type of study called empirical research which is concerned with actual events and phenomena.The data collected from this observation or experiment is called empirical evidence which is then subjected to qualitative and quantitative analysis in order to answer empirical questions.
In an empirical investigation, the researcher collects data through observation and measurement of phenomena, as directly experienced. There are two kinds of data: primary and secondary. The research being based on real life experience may be compared against a theory or hypothesis,the primary data is gathered through observation and experimentation and literature reviews may provide secondary data to form the theoretical background.
What Constitutes an Empirical Research
- The Research Question
The empirical research is guided by a set of research questions. This set of questions can be framed to address an issue or a problem or these research questions constitute the research hypothesis which is to be tested in the course of the empirical study. This research question, through analysis and interpretation of data through predefined methodology is answered in the conclusion of the empirical research. In empirical research, the research question will narrow down a broad topic of interest into a specific area of study to determine the course of the research by highlighting the specific objectives and aims of the systematic investigation.
Framing the perfect research question for empirical research using the FINER criteria (Hulley et al., 2007) :
- Adequate number of subjects • Adequate technical expertise
- Affordable in time and money • Manageable in scope
- Getting the answer intrigues investigator, peers & community
- Confirms, refutes or extends previous findings
- Amenable to a study that institutional review board (IRB) will approve
- To scientific knowledge • To clinical and health policy
- To future research
- The Research Methodology
An empirical research also clearly outlines the type of method that has been adopted in the systematic study of the research question. A research method can be defined as a collection of techniques used to obtain information about a topic, group, or phenomenon. These methods can include observation, experimentation, and interviews. Quantitative research uses numbers to quantify observations in order to draw conclusions from data. Qualitative research uses words and other types of human interaction to capture meanings and experiences. Qualitative research is more subjective and therefore more prone to bias. Quantitative and qualitative research methods are often used together to gain a better understanding of a topic.
They can also be combined with other methods (e.g., ethnography) that aim to understand the context surrounding the study. The choice of which method is best for a particular study depends on the objectives, available resources, and the capacity to conduct both quantitative and qualitative research.
Once the data has been collected from these methods, they must be analyzed. The findings may be used to answer empirical questions that are clearly expressed and answerable through research. There are several kinds of research designs that can be used in many fields. To answer questions that cannot be investigated in a laboratory setting, the researcher may choose to do a collective research involving mixed methods, i.e. using both quantitative and qualitative methods.
The Hourglass model:
- Introduction:The purpose of the Introduction is to explain your research question.Within the introduction, researchers usually present a background of the research question, the hypothesis under study and the contribution of knowledge the research is going to have.
- Methodology: The research design should clearly detail the participants, materials used in the experiment, the procedures followed during the study, the statistical methods used for data analysis and/or collection and ethical considerations.
- Results: The section provides the findings from the study. It can be a mix of statistical data with explanation. The core findings are separately and clearly outlined with a brief and clear summary of each section of the results.
- Discussion: The concluding section or implications deal with the importance of the study conducted and its possible future directions. It summarizes the results and provides a plain interpretation of how the findings are related to your hypothesis, some researchers also provide a ‘limitations of the study’ here and its completed with future scope of the study.
- Hulley S, Cummings S, Browner W, et al. Designing clinical research. 3rd ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2007.
- Fig 1: https://libguides.tulane.edu/empirical/writing