What is Empirical Research? What Are the Characteristics and Types of Empirical Research?


What is empirical research with its origins in Galileo? What does it mean? How is it defined? What are the types and features of empirical research? Examples of empirical research.

Empirical research is a research method based on obtaining concrete and verifiable evidence. The experiment uses direct and indirect observation and statistical methods. Empirical research was born with Galileo Galilei in the 16th century . The Italian scientist used telescope observation to empirically confirm that the Earth revolves around the Sun. He also disproved Aristotle by showing, through an experiment, that light objects fall at the same rate as heavier objects.

Currently, empirical research is a fundamental part of both the exact and social sciences. It is also used in other fields such as market research.

For example, an ice cream parlor that wants to innovate by introducing new flavors of ice cream will apply surveys, focus groups, or other empirical research techniques before deciding which flavors to include in its decision based on the results of the study.

Empirical Research

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Features of empirical research

  1. It is based on obtaining concrete and verifiable evidence.
  2. It uses observation, experiment and statistical analysis methods.
  3. It is applied in both the exact sciences and the social sciences.
  4. It can be quantitative or qualitative.
  5. The processes of induction (forming a hypothesis ) and deduction (the consequences of it) apply only to data obtained by empirical methods, that is, to data collected through what is observed with our senses.
  6. You can use specialized instrumentation (microscopes, telescopes, barometers, and all these instruments designed to measure what is being observed) to obtain the information.

Types of empirical research

Empirical research can be of two types: quantitative or qualitative.


They are applied to research problems that can be answered with numerical data. For example, a politician wants to know his chances of winning a particular election contest. A numerical result will be obtained after applying questionnaires, interviews, cross-sectional studies, or any other empirical technique that the researchers deem appropriate.

The candidate may have a 28% chance of winning, for example, in which case it would be better not to compete; or 62%, which makes his victory very likely.


This type of research considers much less defined variables related to opinions, preferences, tastes, emotions, among others. For example, a company wants to know if listening to music while working makes its employees more products or distracts them. In this case, different techniques such as focus group, participant observation, interview can be applied, as well as statistical sources.

However, it is clear that the results of this investigation will not be as precise and precise as in the quantitative situation. Researchers may find that music increases efficiency in certain situations but distracts in others, so the research will have multiple implications.

Empirical Research Techniques

Empirical research techniques are classified as quantitative and qualitative. However, some techniques can be used in both types of research.

Quantitative Techniques

  • Questionnaire or Quiz  – This is a list of questions designed to collect data. Questions can be multiple choice, closed (they only accept yes or no answers), or open allowing the respondent to express more personal information.
  • Probabilistic sampling  : It involves selecting a sample from the total population of the research and obtaining information that can be generalized to the whole population from it. Sampling can be random, systematic or stratified.
  • Document review  : For example, if an investigation is to be conducted to measure the effects of a new law against drug use, part of the investigation will consist of a review of the law document itself.
  • Observation of phenomena and statistical analysis  : is the direct observation of a particular phenomenon through certain tools; for example, the characteristics of a virus in humans. From there, you can calculate the effects of the virus in question in the population, the level of transmission, the level of disease, etc. analyze.

Qualitative Techniques

  • Interview  : It can take the form of a conversation between the researcher and the study subject, but it should be structured, i.e. designed to obtain the data sought and avoid spillovers. The interview can be face-to-face or over the phone.
  • Focus group  : It’s like an interview, but in groups. Although it also needs to be structured, the focus group is a technique that follows the interaction between participants and is open to the emergence of relevant information that was not foreseen in the original scenario.
  • Participatory and non-participatory observation  : This technique requires the researcher to immerse themselves in the social context of their research. In doing so, you can ask questions and comments on your study subjects (participant) or collect data without any intervention (non-participant) while collecting data.

Difference Between Empirical Research and Theoretical Research

Theoretical research is carried out only in the mind and on paper, through the capacity for abstraction, logical reasoning, and the development of mathematical equations. It does not use observation or experimentation. For example, Einstein ‘s Theory of Relativity presented in his 1905 paper was the product of theoretical research.

Instead, as we have seen, empirical research requires concrete and measurable evidence obtained through experimentation and observation. The Theory of Relativity became purely part of science in 1919 when an eclipse observation confirmed that Einstein’s equations were consistent with empirical reality.

Empirical Research

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Examples of Empirical Research

  1. Effects of adequate nutrition on school performance:  Standardized mental skills tests can be applied to a random sample of primary school students and the results can be compared with each student’s eating habits.
  2. Funerals among members of the Parsi culture in India  : a minority of the Mazdean religion who emigrated from Iran centuries ago. Observation, interview, and document review will enable the ethnologist to describe these rituals and understand their significance for the Parsi community.
  3. The physical and psychological consequences of caffeine addiction  : interview, pharmacological analysis, and medical evaluation are ways of knowing the physiological and psychological response to excessive coffee consumption among individuals in the study.
  4. Efficacy of ivermectin in the treatment of Covid-19  : experiments with controlled doses in multiple study subjects and statistical processing of the results will give us an answer about the efficacy of this drug.
  5. Consequences of a high sodium diet for the health of cats  : Sample samples can be divided into two groups: one would be a high sodium diet and the other would be a low sodium diet. After a certain period of time, medical analysis will show us changes in the health of cats.

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