How to write an empirical research paper?

By Ashni walia & Priya Chetty on January 29, 2020

In an empirical research paper the conclusion of the study is strictly drawn from concrete empirical evidence, therefore are verifiable evidence. Thus, they help gain knowledge from direct or indirect observation or experience. The empirical research approach is generally applied in communication or social sciences-based studies in order to answer objectives or to establish the body of knowledge of the natural world. This empirical evidence can be gathered using quantitative market research such as surveys. This generates numerical data to establish a causal relationship between two or more variables. Furthermore, qualitative market research like interview objectively and critically analyze behaviours, beliefs, feelings or values.

For example, research being conducted in order to find out if listening to happy music while working may promote creativity or not. An experiment is conducted online on a set of audience that is exposed to happy music and another set of audience that is not listening to music at all while they are at work. Both groups are then observed. The results derived from such research provides empirical evidence if it promotes creativity or not. The paper-based on this empirical evidence is known as empirical research.

Characteristics of an empirical research paper

  • This approach allows a specific research question to be answered.
  • This approach helps in defining the population to be involved in the study, their behaviour and characteristics, or the phenomena that are being studied.
  • Further, this approach describes the process that is used to study the population or the phenomena which include the section criteria, controls and the testing instruments.

The methodology used in empirical articles

As stated above the empirical evidence can be gathered either using quantitative market research method or the qualitative research method. Under the qualitative approach, the data can be collected either through an individual interview or through focus group discussions.

  • Individual interview approach: this method of data extraction involves the conversation between two people. It is basically designed to elicit the interviewee’s knowledge on a certain perspective or the topic. These insights are helpful in exploring individual belief, values, understandings, feelings. This also helps researchers to ask complex issues, thus learning more about the contextual factors that govern the individual experience.
  • Focus group discussion: this method involves an organized discussion between 6 to 8 people. This form of data collection provides the participants with an opportunity to present their views on a certain topic. This helps the researcher to explore how the group think about an issue. The range of opinion and ideas and helps in exploring the inconsistency and the variation in the thought process. It is important for the researcher to purposefully recruit the participants.
Method PurposeProcess
Interview method Gathering detailedFace-to-face conversation
Focus group method Collecting qualitative data Group discussion

Further, under the quantitative approach, the data can be collected in various ways some of them are surveys and questionnaire.


A survey generally involves a questionnaire with carefully constructed questions. Often in the case of the close-ended questionnaire ranking and scoring options are used. This close-ended questionnaire limits the respondents to the specified number of answers.

Document review

It involves the collection of the data after reviewing the existing documents. It is also one of the efficient and effective ways of gathering quantitative data. The documents that are generally analyzed for collecting numeric research data include public records like government or national statistics, and firm-specific data like the annual reports, policy manuals etc.


It is a very simple and straightforward way of collecting quantitative data. Under this approach, a researcher collects quantitative data through systematic observations using techniques like counting the number of people attending a particular event. Under this approach, the researcher needs to have a naturalistic observation approach in order to collect the data.

Method` Purpose Process
Survey method To arrive at a consensus regarding a research phenomenon using sampled population data. Close-ended questionnaires distributed among respondents on various mediums. Also involves clinical and behavioural data.
Document review To draw conclusions on a research problem using historical secondary data specific to the firm or region or country. Review of government records, national-level statistical data, and firm-level performance statistics.
Observation To record behavioural trends in a specific case. Naturalistic observation.

Guidelines to write an empirical research paper

The best empirical research report is generally the one that describes everything relevant to the problem that is under investigation. First, the report or the research paper should always define the theoretical or the empirical bases for the research. This should be in such a manner that the reader can understand clearly how the research question or the specific prediction follows from the theory. Furthermore, the report should clearly outline the way research was carried out. Then an appropriate presentation of the results, and finally, interpret the results in the context of the empirical work or the theory that motivated you for the research.

Conventionally divide the empirical research paper in the following manner:

  1. Title: The basic purpose of the title will be to provide a miniature description of the research. Generally, in order to convey most information, titles typically involve the name of dependent and independent variables.
  2. Abstract: The abstract provides a summary of the empirical research paper. It should contain a statement of the problem, a brief description of the method, similarly brief discussion about the results as well as the conclusion.
  3. Introduction: It should able to summarize the background of the research and should outline the specific approach taken or adopted by the researcher in the investigation.
  4. Method: The fourth section that is the method should able to describe the research procedure. One of the basic criteria for judging the completeness of the method section is to analyze whether another investigator could take the description and can redo the investigation.
  5. Results: This section should clearly present the data obtained in the investigation and the analyses performed on them. The figures that will be presented here will be a summary of the raw measurements, for example, the mean error rates across the participants in each group.
  6. Discussion: The basic purpose of the discussion will be to interpret the results and to explain the conclusions suggested by them. Furthermore, in this section, the researcher should clearly describe the contribution of their research to the broad issue that has been raised at the beginning of the report.
Structure of an empirical research paper
Figure 1: Structure of an empirical research paper

Limitations of an empirical research paper

Empirical research papers may offer many opportunities but there are certain limitations as well:

  1. Empirical studies are not the formal proof of any fact, they rather accept or reject the hypothesis. The results are always affiliated with uncertainty. This hypothesis testing procedure is responsible for an important limitation of empirical research. Although these researches are very good at identifying design errors and wrong assumptions but does not suggest any new theories or approaches directly. Thus, there is a need that these empirical evaluations must be combined with the theoretical grounds to yield useful results.
  2. Another limitation of empirical research is data collection. Data collection sometimes involves field research. Wherein the researchers sometimes do not get access to all the information. Even if they get the access they may not be able to collect accurate data.
  3. Empirical research is a time-consuming process thus requires patience on the part of the researchers. Time-consuming because data must be collected from different sources, which also means that it could require the researcher to visits different areas. Thus, can lead to an expensive affair.

Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).


I am a master's in Economics from Amity university. Besides my keen interest in Economics i have been an active member of the team Enactus. Apart from the academics i love reading fictions. 


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