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empirical literature review

Writing a Literature Review

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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.

Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?

There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.

A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.

Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.

What are the parts of a lit review?

Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.



How should I organize my lit review?

Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:

What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?

Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .

As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.

Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:

The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.

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How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes .

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, frequently asked questions, introduction.

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

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empirical literature review

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Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).


The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.


If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:


A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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Module 2 Chapter 3: What is Empirical Literature & Where can it be Found?

In Module 1, you read about the problem of pseudoscience. Here, we revisit the issue in addressing how to locate and assess scientific or empirical literature . In this chapter you will read about:

Probably the most important take-home lesson from this chapter is that one source is not sufficient to being well-informed on a topic. It is important to locate multiple sources of information and to critically appraise the points of convergence and divergence in the information acquired from different sources. This is especially true in emerging and poorly understood topics, as well as in answering complex questions.

What Is Empirical Literature

Social workers often need to locate valid, reliable information concerning the dimensions of a population group or subgroup, a social work problem, or social phenomenon. They might also seek information about the way specific problems or resources are distributed among the populations encountered in professional practice. Or, social workers might be interested in finding out about the way that certain people experience an event or phenomenon. Empirical literature resources may provide answers to many of these types of social work questions. In addition, resources containing data regarding social indicators may also prove helpful. Social indicators are the “facts and figures” statistics that describe the social, economic, and psychological factors that have an impact on the well-being of a community or other population group.The United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are examples of organizations that monitor social indicators at a global level: dimensions of population trends (size, composition, growth/loss), health status (physical, mental, behavioral, life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, fertility/child-bearing, and diseases like HIV/AIDS), housing and quality of sanitation (water supply, waste disposal), education and literacy, and work/income/unemployment/economics, for example.

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Three characteristics stand out in empirical literature compared to other types of information available on a topic of interest: systematic observation and methodology, objectivity, and transparency/replicability/reproducibility. Let’s look a little more closely at these three features.

Systematic Observation and Methodology. The hallmark of empiricism is “repeated or reinforced observation of the facts or phenomena” (Holosko, 2006, p. 6). In empirical literature, established research methodologies and procedures are systematically applied to answer the questions of interest.

Objectivity. Gathering “facts,” whatever they may be, drives the search for empirical evidence (Holosko, 2006). Authors of empirical literature are expected to report the facts as observed, whether or not these facts support the investigators’ original hypotheses. Research integrity demands that the information be provided in an objective manner, reducing sources of investigator bias to the greatest possible extent.

Transparency and Replicability/Reproducibility.   Empirical literature is reported in such a manner that other investigators understand precisely what was done and what was found in a particular research study—to the extent that they could replicate the study to determine whether the findings are reproduced when repeated. The outcomes of an original and replication study may differ, but a reader could easily interpret the methods and procedures leading to each study’s findings.

What is NOT Empirical Literature

By now, it is probably obvious to you that literature based on “evidence” that is not developed in a systematic, objective, transparent manner is not empirical literature. On one hand, non-empirical types of professional literature may have great significance to social workers. For example, social work scholars may produce articles that are clearly identified as describing a new intervention or program without evaluative evidence, critiquing a policy or practice, or offering a tentative, untested theory about a phenomenon. These resources are useful in educating ourselves about possible issues or concerns. But, even if they are informed by evidence, they are not empirical literature. Here is a list of several sources of information that do not meet the standard of being called empirical literature:

You may be surprised to see the last two included in this list. Like the other sources of information listed, these sources also might lead you to look for evidence. But, they are not themselves sources of evidence. They may summarize existing evidence, but in the process of summarizing (like your instructor’s lectures), information is transformed, modified, reduced, condensed, and otherwise manipulated in such a manner that you may not see the entire, objective story. These are called secondary sources, as opposed to the original, primary source of evidence. In relying solely on secondary sources, you sacrifice your own critical appraisal and thinking about the original work—you are “buying” someone else’s interpretation and opinion about the original work, rather than developing your own interpretation and opinion. What if they got it wrong? How would you know if you did not examine the primary source for yourself? Consider the following as an example of “getting it wrong” being perpetuated.

Example: Bullying and School Shootings . One result of the heavily publicized April 1999 school shooting incident at Columbine High School (Colorado), was a heavy emphasis placed on bullying as a causal factor in these incidents (Mears, Moon, & Thielo, 2017), “creating a powerful master narrative about school shootings” (Raitanen, Sandberg, & Oksanen, 2017, p. 3). Naturally, with an identified cause, a great deal of effort was devoted to anti-bullying campaigns and interventions for enhancing resilience among youth who experience bullying.  However important these strategies might be for promoting positive mental health, preventing poor mental health, and possibly preventing suicide among school-aged children and youth, it is a mistaken belief that this can prevent school shootings (Mears, Moon, & Thielo, 2017). Many times the accounts of the perpetrators having been bullied come from potentially inaccurate third-party accounts, rather than the perpetrators themselves; bullying was not involved in all instances of school shooting; a perpetrator’s perception of being bullied/persecuted are not necessarily accurate; many who experience severe bullying do not perpetrate these incidents; bullies are the least targeted shooting victims; perpetrators of the shooting incidents were often bullying others; and, bullying is only one of many important factors associated with perpetrating such an incident (Ioannou, Hammond, & Simpson, 2015; Mears, Moon, & Thielo, 2017; Newman &Fox, 2009; Raitanen, Sandberg, & Oksanen, 2017). While mass media reports deliver bullying as a means of explaining the inexplicable, the reality is not so simple: “The connection between bullying and school shootings is elusive” (Langman, 2014), and “the relationship between bullying and school shooting is, at best, tenuous” (Mears, Moon, & Thielo, 2017, p. 940). The point is, when a narrative becomes this publicly accepted, it is difficult to sort out truth and reality without going back to original sources of information and evidence.

Wordcloud of Bully Related Terms

What May or May Not Be Empirical Literature: Literature Reviews

Investigators typically engage in a review of existing literature as they develop their own research studies. The review informs them about where knowledge gaps exist, methods previously employed by other scholars, limitations of prior work, and previous scholars’ recommendations for directing future research. These reviews may appear as a published article, without new study data being reported (see Fields, Anderson, & Dabelko-Schoeny, 2014 for example). Or, the literature review may appear in the introduction to their own empirical study report. These literature reviews are not considered to be empirical evidence sources themselves, although they may be based on empirical evidence sources. One reason is that the authors of a literature review may or may not have engaged in a systematic search process, identifying a full, rich, multi-sided pool of evidence reports.

There is, however, a type of review that applies systematic methods and is, therefore, considered to be more strongly rooted in evidence: the systematic review .

Systematic review of literature. A systematic reviewis a type of literature report where established methods have been systematically applied, objectively, in locating and synthesizing a body of literature. The systematic review report is characterized by a great deal of transparency about the methods used and the decisions made in the review process, and are replicable. Thus, it meets the criteria for empirical literature: systematic observation and methodology, objectivity, and transparency/reproducibility. We will work a great deal more with systematic reviews in the second course, SWK 3402, since they are important tools for understanding interventions. They are somewhat less common, but not unheard of, in helping us understand diverse populations, social work problems, and social phenomena.

Locating Empirical Evidence

Social workers have available a wide array of tools and resources for locating empirical evidence in the literature. These can be organized into four general categories.

Journal Articles. A number of professional journals publish articles where investigators report on the results of their empirical studies. However, it is important to know how to distinguish between empirical and non-empirical manuscripts in these journals. A key indicator, though not the only one, involves a peer review process . Many professional journals require that manuscripts undergo a process of peer review before they are accepted for publication. This means that the authors’ work is shared with scholars who provide feedback to the journal editor as to the quality of the submitted manuscript. The editor then makes a decision based on the reviewers’ feedback:

When a “revise and resubmit” decision is made, the piece will go back through the review process to determine if it is now acceptable for publication and that all of the reviewers’ concerns have been adequately addressed. Editors may also reject a manuscript because it is a poor fit for the journal, based on its mission and audience, rather than sending it for review consideration.

Word cloud of social work related publications

Indicators of journal relevance. Various journals are not equally relevant to every type of question being asked of the literature. Journals may overlap to a great extent in terms of the topics they might cover; in other words, a topic might appear in multiple different journals, depending on how the topic was being addressed. For example, articles that might help answer a question about the relationship between community poverty and violence exposure might appear in several different journals, some with a focus on poverty, others with a focus on violence, and still others on community development or public health. Journal titles are sometimes a good starting point but may not give a broad enough picture of what they cover in their contents.

In focusing a literature search, it also helps to review a journal’s mission and target audience. For example, at least four different journals focus specifically on poverty:

Let’s look at an example using the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice . Information about this journal is located on the journal’s webpage: http://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/journals/journal-of-poverty-and-social-justice . In the section headed “About the Journal” you can see that it is an internationally focused research journal, and that it addresses social justice issues in addition to poverty alone. The research articles are peer-reviewed (there appear to be non-empirical discussions published, as well). These descriptions about a journal are almost always available, sometimes listed as “scope” or “mission.” These descriptions also indicate the sponsorship of the journal—sponsorship may be institutional (a particular university or agency, such as Smith College Studies in Social Work ), a professional organization, such as the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or the National Association of Social Work (NASW), or a publishing company (e.g., Taylor & Frances, Wiley, or Sage).

Indicators of journal caliber.  Despite engaging in a peer review process, not all journals are equally rigorous. Some journals have very high rejection rates, meaning that many submitted manuscripts are rejected; others have fairly high acceptance rates, meaning that relatively few manuscripts are rejected. This is not necessarily the best indicator of quality, however, since newer journals may not be sufficiently familiar to authors with high quality manuscripts and some journals are very specific in terms of what they publish. Another index that is sometimes used is the journal’s impact factor . Impact factor is a quantitative number indicative of how often articles published in the journal are cited in the reference list of other journal articles—the statistic is calculated as the number of times on average each article published in a particular year were cited divided by the number of articles published (the number that could be cited). For example, the impact factor for the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice in our list above was 0.70 in 2017, and for the Journal of Poverty was 0.30. These are relatively low figures compared to a journal like the New England Journal of Medicine with an impact factor of 59.56! This means that articles published in that journal were, on average, cited more than 59 times in the next year or two.

Impact factors are not necessarily the best indicator of caliber, however, since many strong journals are geared toward practitioners rather than scholars, so they are less likely to be cited by other scholars but may have a large impact on a large readership. This may be the case for a journal like the one titled Social Work, the official journal of the National Association of Social Workers. It is distributed free to all members: over 120,000 practitioners, educators, and students of social work world-wide. The journal has a recent impact factor of.790. The journals with social work relevant content have impact factors in the range of 1.0 to 3.0 according to Scimago Journal & Country Rank (SJR), particularly when they are interdisciplinary journals (for example, Child Development , Journal of Marriage and Family , Child Abuse and Neglect , Child Maltreatmen t, Social Service Review , and British Journal of Social Work ). Once upon a time, a reader could locate different indexes comparing the “quality” of social work-related journals. However, the concept of “quality” is difficult to systematically define. These indexes have mostly been replaced by impact ratings, which are not necessarily the best, most robust indicators on which to rely in assessing journal quality. For example, new journals addressing cutting edge topics have not been around long enough to have been evaluated using this particular tool, and it takes a few years for articles to begin to be cited in other, later publications.

Beware of pseudo-, illegitimate, misleading, deceptive, and suspicious journals . Another side effect of living in the Age of Information is that almost anyone can circulate almost anything and call it whatever they wish. This goes for “journal” publications, as well. With the advent of open-access publishing in recent years (electronic resources available without subscription), we have seen an explosion of what are called predatory or junk journals . These are publications calling themselves journals, often with titles very similar to legitimate publications and often with fake editorial boards. These “publications” lack the integrity of legitimate journals. This caution is reminiscent of the discussions earlier in the course about pseudoscience and “snake oil” sales. The predatory nature of many apparent information dissemination outlets has to do with how scientists and scholars may be fooled into submitting their work, often paying to have their work peer-reviewed and published. There exists a “thriving black-market economy of publishing scams,” and at least two “journal blacklists” exist to help identify and avoid these scam journals (Anderson, 2017).

This issue is important to information consumers, because it creates a challenge in terms of identifying legitimate sources and publications. The challenge is particularly important to address when information from on-line, open-access journals is being considered. Open-access is not necessarily a poor choice—legitimate scientists may pay sizeable fees to legitimate publishers to make their work freely available and accessible as open-access resources. On-line access is also not necessarily a poor choice—legitimate publishers often make articles available on-line to provide timely access to the content, especially when publishing the article in hard copy will be delayed by months or even a year or more. On the other hand, stating that a journal engages in a peer-review process is no guarantee of quality—this claim may or may not be truthful. Pseudo- and junk journals may engage in some quality control practices, but may lack attention to important quality control processes, such as managing conflict of interest, reviewing content for objectivity or quality of the research conducted, or otherwise failing to adhere to industry standards (Laine & Winker, 2017).

One resource designed to assist with the process of deciphering legitimacy is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). The DOAJ is not a comprehensive listing of all possible legitimate open-access journals, and does not guarantee quality, but it does help identify legitimate sources of information that are openly accessible and meet basic legitimacy criteria. It also is about open-access journals, not the many journals published in hard copy.

An additional caution: Search for article corrections. Despite all of the careful manuscript review and editing, sometimes an error appears in a published article. Most journals have a practice of publishing corrections in future issues. When you locate an article, it is helpful to also search for updates. Here is an example where data presented in an article’s original tables were erroneous, and a correction appeared in a later issue.

Search Tools. In this age of information, it is all too easy to find items—the problem lies in sifting, sorting, and managing the vast numbers of items that can be found. For example, a simple Google® search for the topic “community poverty and violence” resulted in about 15,600,000 results! As a means of simplifying the process of searching for journal articles on a specific topic, a variety of helpful tools have emerged. One type of search tool has previously applied a filtering process for you: abstracting and indexing databases . These resources provide the user with the results of a search to which records have already passed through one or more filters. For example, PsycINFO is managed by the American Psychological Association and is devoted to peer-reviewed literature in behavioral science. It contains almost 4.5 million records and is growing every month. However, it may not be available to users who are not affiliated with a university library. Conducting a basic search for our topic of “community poverty and violence” in PsychINFO returned 1,119 articles. Still a large number, but far more manageable. Additional filters can be applied, such as limiting the range in publication dates, selecting only peer reviewed items, limiting the language of the published piece (English only, for example), and specified types of documents (either chapters, dissertations, or journal articles only, for example). Adding the filters for English, peer-reviewed journal articles published between 2010 and 2017 resulted in 346 documents being identified.

Just as was the case with journals, not all abstracting and indexing databases are equivalent. There may be overlap between them, but none is guaranteed to identify all relevant pieces of literature. Here are some examples to consider, depending on the nature of the questions asked of the literature:

Placing our search for information about “community violence and poverty” into the Social Work Abstracts tool with no additional filters resulted in a manageable 54-item list. Finally, abstracting and indexing databases are another way to determine journal legitimacy: if a journal is indexed in a one of these systems, it is likely a legitimate journal. However, the converse is not necessarily true: if a journal is not indexed does not mean it is an illegitimate or pseudo-journal.

Government Sources. A great deal of information is gathered, analyzed, and disseminated by various governmental branches at the international, national, state, regional, county, and city level. Searching websites that end in.gov is one way to identify this type of information, often presented in articles, news briefs, and statistical reports. These government sources gather information in two ways: they fund external investigations through grants and contracts and they conduct research internally, through their own investigators. Here are some examples to consider, depending on the nature of the topic for which information is sought:

Each state and many counties or cities have similar data sources and analysis reports available, such as Ohio Department of Health at https://www.odh.ohio.gov/healthstats/dataandstats.aspx and Franklin County at https://statisticalatlas.com/county/Ohio/Franklin-County/Overview . Data are available from international/global resources (e.g., United Nations and World Health Organization), as well.

Other Sources. The Health and Medicine Division (HMD) of the National Academies—previously the Institute of Medicine (IOM)—is a nonprofit institution that aims to provide government and private sector policy and other decision makers with objective analysis and advice for making informed health decisions. For example, in 2018 they produced reports on topics in substance use and mental health concerning the intersection of opioid use disorder and infectious disease,  the legal implications of emerging neurotechnologies, and a global agenda concerning the identification and prevention of violence (see http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Global/Topics/Substance-Abuse-Mental-Health.aspx ). The exciting aspect of this resource is that it addresses many topics that are current concerns because they are hoping to help inform emerging policy. The caution to consider with this resource is the evidence is often still emerging, as well.

Numerous “think tank” organizations exist, each with a specific mission. For example, the Rand Corporation is a nonprofit organization offering research and analysis to address global issues since 1948. The institution’s mission is to help improve policy and decision making “to help individuals, families, and communities throughout the world be safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous,” addressing issues of energy, education, health care, justice, the environment, international affairs, and national security (https://www.rand.org/about/history.html). And, for example, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation is a philanthropic organization supporting research and research dissemination concerning health issues facing the United States. The foundation works to build a culture of health across systems of care (not only medical care) and communities (https://www.rwjf.org).

While many of these have a great deal of helpful evidence to share, they also may have a strong political bias. Objectivity is often lacking in what information these organizations provide: they provide evidence to support certain points of view. That is their purpose—to provide ideas on specific problems, many of which have a political component. Think tanks “are constantly researching solutions to a variety of the world’s problems, and arguing, advocating, and lobbying for policy changes at local, state, and federal levels” (quoted from https://thebestschools.org/features/most-influential-think-tanks/ ). Helpful information about what this one source identified as the 50 most influential U.S. think tanks includes identifying each think tank’s political orientation. For example, The Heritage Foundation is identified as conservative, whereas Human Rights Watch is identified as liberal.

While not the same as think tanks, many mission-driven organizations also sponsor or report on research, as well. For example, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) in the United States is a registered nonprofit organization. Its mission, along with other partnering organizations, private-sector groups, and federal agencies, is to promote policy and program development in research, prevention and treatment to provide information to, for, and about children of alcoholics (of all ages). Based on this mission, the organization supports knowledge development and information gathering on the topic and disseminates information that serves the needs of this population. While this is a worthwhile mission, there is no guarantee that the information meets the criteria for evidence with which we have been working. Evidence reported by think tank and mission-driven sources must be utilized with a great deal of caution and critical analysis!

In many instances an empirical report has not appeared in the published literature, but in the form of a technical or final report to the agency or program providing the funding for the research that was conducted. One such example is presented by a team of investigators funded by the National Institute of Justice to evaluate a program for training professionals to collect strong forensic evidence in instances of sexual assault (Patterson, Resko, Pierce-Weeks, & Campbell, 2014): https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/247081.pdf . Investigators may serve in the capacity of consultant to agencies, programs, or institutions, and provide empirical evidence to inform activities and planning. One such example is presented by Maguire-Jack (2014) as a report to a state’s child maltreatment prevention board: https://preventionboard.wi.gov/Documents/InvestmentInPreventionPrograming_Final.pdf .

When Direct Answers to Questions Cannot Be Found. Sometimes social workers are interested in finding answers to complex questions or questions related to an emerging, not-yet-understood topic. This does not mean giving up on empirical literature. Instead, it requires a bit of creativity in approaching the literature. A Venn diagram might help explain this process. Consider a scenario where a social worker wishes to locate literature to answer a question concerning issues of intersectionality. Intersectionality is a social justice term applied to situations where multiple categorizations or classifications come together to create overlapping, interconnected, or multiplied disadvantage. For example, women with a substance use disorder and who have been incarcerated face a triple threat in terms of successful treatment for a substance use disorder: intersectionality exists between being a woman, having a substance use disorder, and having been in jail or prison. After searching the literature, little or no empirical evidence might have been located on this specific triple-threat topic. Instead, the social worker will need to seek literature on each of the threats individually, and possibly will find literature on pairs of topics (see Figure 3-1). There exists some literature about women’s outcomes for treatment of a substance use disorder (a), some literature about women during and following incarceration (b), and some literature about substance use disorders and incarceration (c). Despite not having a direct line on the center of the intersecting spheres of literature (d), the social worker can develop at least a partial picture based on the overlapping literatures.

Figure 3-1. Venn diagram of intersecting literature sets.

empirical literature review

Take a moment to complete the following activity. For each statement about empirical literature, decide if it is true or false.

Social Work 3401 Coursebook by Dr. Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How to empirically review the literature?

Empirical research according to Penn State University is based on “observed and measured phenomenon. It derives the knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief”. The empirical review is structured to answer specific research questions within a research paper. Therefore, it enables the researcher to find answers to questions like; What is the problem? The methodology used to study the problem? What was found? What do the findings mean?

Components of empirical review

The key components of empirical review are defined in the figure below. Each of these components will be explained with the help of examples.

Empirical research

When we need to conduct an empirical review on more than 10-15 studies, it is important to be crisp in the presentation of information in a minimum number of words. The following example reflects this point precisely.

Nearly two decades ago, Kalleberg and Leicht (1991) (Authors) conducted a comparative study using longitudinal data (Methodology) in the United States to identify the factors affecting survival and success of small businesses started by men and women (Objective) . That time concept of women entrepreneurship was at a very nascent stage in India. The research findings revealed that the likelihood of success for women’s businesses was the same as the likelihood of success for men’s   (Findings) . This is contrary to the general belief that women are inferior when it comes to entrepreneurship. Also, the factors affecting the survival and success of entrepreneurship behaved in similar ways for both men and women (Kalleberg and Leicht, 1991). Therefore, we can conclude that there is no difference with respect to success when it comes to comparing entrepreneurship among the two genders   (Implications) .

When each study has to be presented individually and more elaboration is needed, then the following approach of the presentation can be adopted.

“Impact of FDI on Indian Economy” (Title) by Devajit (2012) (Author)

This study tries to find out how FDI is seen as an important economic catalyst of Indian economic growth by stimulating domestic investment, increasing human capital formation and by facilitating the technology transfers. The main purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of FDI on economic growth in India.


An empirical review of previous studies in the period of 2008-2011.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as a strategic component of investment is needed by India for its sustained economic growth and development through the creation of jobs, expansion of existing manufacturing industries, short and long term projects in the field of healthcare, education, research, and development (R & D), etc. The government should design the FDI policy in such a way that FDI inflow can be utilized as a means of enhancing domestic production, savings, and exports through the equitable distribution among states by providing much freedom to states. In this way, they can attract FDI inflows at their own level. FDI can help to raise the output, productivity, and export at the sectoral level of the Indian economy. However, it can observe the result of sectoral level output, productivity and export are minimal. This is due to the low flow of FDI into India both at the macro level as well as at the sectoral level.


Therefore for further opening up of the Indian economy, it is advisable to open up the export-oriented sectors and higher growth of the economy could be achieved through the growth of these sectors.

Key points to keep in mind when writing an empirical review

Example 1: In agreement

Furthermore, a study by Lall & Sahai (2008) was conducted to study of the issues & challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, using the data collected from women entrepreneurs in Lucknow, India. Various psychographic variables were identified including the degree of commitment, challenges in entrepreneurship & future expansion plans. The characteristics of entrepreneurship were identified as self-esteem, self-image, entrepreneurial passion and the ability to handle future operational and expansion problems.

According to the study, an increasing number of women have been found to work in family-owned businesses. However, they work with low statuses and more challenges. Another similar study (in agreement) conducted by Gupta (2008), on women entrepreneurs across the country, highlighted the constraints. This includes lack of finance, support from family, and male dominance in the society, which were constricting the entry of women entrepreneurship in India.

Example 2: In an argument

Nearly three years later, Surthi and Sarupriya (2003) conducted research on women entrepreneurs in India to study the psychological factors which affect women entrepreneurs. As per the findings of the research, demographic factors like; marital status, type of family, and the way they cope with stress affected women entrepreneurs. In addition, women who were living in a joint family experienced less stress in comparison to the ones living in a nuclear family. This is because the ones living in joint families were able to share their problems with their family members. (In argument) while this study identified the factors which were affecting women’s entrepreneurship, a study conducted by Mohiuddin (2006) was to determine the reasons which contribute to women opting for entrepreneurship in India. The reasons which came forward after the end of the study were; 1) economic needs; 2) personality needs, 3) utilization of knowledge gained through education; 4) family occupation and 5) to pass the leisure time.

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empirical literature review meaning in research writing

Another hint: some scholarly journals use a specific layout, called the “IMRaD” format, to communicate empirical research findings. Such articles typically have 4 components: Introduction: sometimes called “literature review” — what is currently known about the topic — usually includes a theoretical framework and/or discussion of previous studies In empirical literature, established research methodologies and procedures are systematically applied to answer the questions of interest. Objectivity. Gathering “facts,” whatever they may be, drives the search for empirical evidence (Holosko, 2006). A substantive and thorough literature review is the basis for any good research project (Boote & Beile, 2005) and a well-crafted literature review section provides the theoretical foundation that is required to support any argument of contribution.

An empirical literature review is more commonly called a systematic literature review and it examines past empirical studies to answer a particular research question. The empirical studies we examine are usually random controlled trials (RCTs). A literature review is a summary of research that has been conducted in the past on a certain subject of interest. The purpose of the literature review is to discover the gaps in literature. The literature review helps to form the theoretical basis of the research. Writing the literature review for empirical papers. A’read’ is counted each time someone views a publication summary (such as the title, abstract, and list of authors), clicks on a figure, or views or downloads the full-text. In dissertation or thesis work, the empherical literature review is usually the second chapter of both the proposal and the final paper.

In this chapter, the author reviews the information and theories currently available concerning the topic and the historical background of the topic. The point is to do two things. The article based on an experiment that was conducted solely to write the paper is an empirical review. The experiment is carried out by means of calibrated instruments in a controlled manner. The experiment is carried out by means of calibrated instruments in a controlled manner. An empirical research article is an article which reports research based on actual observations or experiments. The research may use quantitative research methods, which generate numerical data and seek to establish causal relationships between two or more variables.

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empirical review and literature review

Differences between Empirical Review and Literature Review

As a researcher, you might be wondering the difference between Empirical Review and Literature Review. If you are going to write an essay or article, you must first figure out what your topic is. The subject determines the flow of the writing, the material provided, and every other element. Students often accost empirical studies and literature reviews while preparing a research paper . It’s critical to know the difference between the two in order to craft a solid piece of writing. Both articles are responsible for presenting the facts, but their strategies differ.

empirical review and literature review

Students are often perplexed when asked what empirical research is. The following is an explanation of the differences between a systematic review and a literature review:

Definition of Empirical review -Empirical Review and Literature Review

An empirical literature review, also known as a systematic literature review, analyzes previous empirical studies in order to provide an answer to a specific research topic. Rather than drawing information from theories or beliefs, empirical research relies on observations and measurements to arrive at conclusions. To address specific research inquiries, it could involve making a list of people, behaviors, or events that are being researched.

empirical review and literature review

In some cases, reviews of studies that involved experiments are used in empirical reviews to generate findings based on actual experience that may be seen directly or indirectly. Most of the time, the analysis entails quantifying the data and drawing conclusions. The goal is to provide data that can be quantified using established scientific methods . Research reviewers thoroughly examine all findings of other authors before drawing any conclusions in an essay or paper.

As a result of carefully planned and monitored observations, the experiment is carried out and the resulting conclusion is rigorously monitored. In contrast to other types of literature reviews, the focus here is on the most recent results of the experimental studies as it is now being conducted. A hypothesis may also be a forecast of a previously presented theory based on prior material.

Empirical evidence examined here refers to data gathered via testing or observation in this context. These data are collected and analyzed by scientists. For example, an empirical review could involve reviewing the study of another researcher on a group of listeners exposed to upbeat music or a work on learning and improvisation that examines other studies on work that theorizes about the educational value of improvisational principles and practices, such as Viola Spolin and Keith Johnstone ‘s writings in which they present their beliefs, impressions, ideas, and theories about those.

Defining Literature review -Empirical Review and Literature Review

The literature review , as opposed to an empirical review, necessitates reading several types of related studies. Other theoretical sources are used to compile the facts and information included in this piece. The accumulation of all literary works may lead to new deductions. Information and hypotheses, on the other hand, have already been developed.

empirical review and literature review

In order to generate cohesive findings, a literature review compiles all necessary data. There can be no new theories developed since there can be no experimental work done.

There is an important function for the literature review in uncovering and defining and clarifying key ideas that will be utilized throughout the empirical parts of the paper argues.

A well-written review article may shed light on the current state of knowledge, explain apparent inconsistencies, pinpoint areas in need of more study, and even help to forge a consensus where none previously existed. A well-written review may also assist you in your professional life. Reviews aid in recognition and advancement due to their high citation frequency.

Selecting the type of review to conduct -Empirical Review and Literature Review

College students are often required to write several papers as part of their studies. When a student does a literature review, he or she is attempting to use the written word to support or refute an idea or hypothesis. He or she may test a theory or try to find an answer to a specific issue based on already known information. An empirical review is a piece of writing based on a study that was done purely for the purpose of publishing it. Calibrated instruments are used to conduct the experiment in a scientifically controlled way.

You should start writing as soon as you finish the experiment. During the study, observations should be recorded in a methodical manner. This aids in the development of coherence, which is more easily understood even in the future. Additionally, starting the writing process early allows for more time for revision and results in higher-quality work.

Because experiments may take some time to produce the desired results, this is especially important for empirical studies. Leaving the writing to the last minute and beginning it when the deadline is nearing will just add to the stress and complexity of the process. This interferes with the job and lowers the quality. As a result, staying on top of your job helps your paper, as well as your personal life, grow.

Almost every research article includes a review of the literature. An empirical study must first be established inside accepted theory before they can publish their findings. In other words, before we get into our methodology and research questions, we’ll go through what’s been done previously and how the variables we want to investigate fit into the theories and frameworks of our research field.

An empirical literature review, also known as a systematic literature review, analyzes previous empirical studies in order to provide an answer to a specific research topic. Randomized controlled trials are the most common kind of empirical study.

Both of these tasks are similar in that they need to review previous work on the topic. The empirical literature review, on the other hand, seeks to address a particular empirical issue by analyzing data. The theoretical literature review serves primarily to place your research within a broader framework. A theoretical review will be included in systematic empirical reviews to help researchers understand why a specific research topic is worth investigating.

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An Example of Empirical Literature Review (Term Paper Sample)

Conduct an Empirical Literature Review on: Effects of Imports on Economic Growth, Effects of Exports on Economic Growth, and Impacts of Foreign Domestic Investment (FDI) on Economic Growth

Empirical Literature Review Students Name Institutional Affiliation Conduct an Empirical Literature Review on: Effects of Imports on Economic Growth, Effects of Exports on Economic Growth, and Impacts of Foreign Domestic Investment (FDI) on Economic Growth a). Effects of Imports on Economic Growth Bakari and Mabrouki (2017) carried out a research aimed at exploring the bearings of imports and exports in Panama from 1980 to 2015. They employed Johansen’s co-integration analysis of VAR Model to explore how economic growth is influenced by volumes and value of imports and exports in Panama. This was calibrated in conjunction with the Granger-Casualty tests to examine causality. The outcome of the described analysis led to a determination that exports as well as imports bear no significant influence on Panama’s economic growth. On the contrary, there was a strong indication of bidirectional interdependence between economic growth and imports as well as between economic growth and exports. Based on these outcomes, there is proof that growth of the economy in Panama arises from the contribution of exports and imports. Saaed (2015) conducted an investigation on the effect of exports (IM) and imports (EX) on the growth of Tunisia’s economy. The research focused from the year 1977 to 2012. For the long run, their research employed the Johansen's Cointegration Technique used alongside Granger's Causality test’s cointegration technique. When ADF test and Phillip-Perron (PP) test were chosen to test for stationarity in the analysis of the data. It was found out that there exists a unidirectional causality of imports and growth of the economy. It was concluded that imports and growth of the economy do not have a direct relationship and it cannot, therefore be justified that imports (IM) directly impacts growth of the economy. Hey (2012), conducted a research to determine the export-led, growth-led, import-led and foreign deficit sustainability quantification in China using review of consecutive historical yearly data from 1978 to 2009. The study forecasting evidence employed the Philips Perron Unit root tests to ascertain the autoregression and integration lag (ARDL) approach. Specifically, the a Philips Perron estimates aimed at determining the long run relationship as well as its direction behind the long and short run causation interrelation presented by the Granger causality test. The study findings revealed that there is a long run relationship between imports and economic growth. Still, the findings dictated the researchers to confirm that the hypothesis that imports-led and growth-led are interlinked in causation. Specifically, the economic growth elasticity to imports is 0. 621 while elasticity of imports under the economic growth reference is 1.392. The data interpretation concluded that imports play a very colossal role in China's economic growth. The findings established that there is a strong bidirectional relationship between imports and economic growth. Fullerton & Boehmer (2012) conducted a research on the link between imports, exports and growth of the Mexican Economy between the years of 1980 and 2007 using vector error and causality test correlation quantifications. The statistical interpretation of the quality tests depicted that imports play a more vital part in economic advancement than exports in Mexico. Clearly, a long run association between imports and growth of the economy is observed. This study however factored in the interplay between value of exports and productivity of labour, terms of trade and Gross Domestic Output utilising these methodologies. From the results garnered it is evident that imports place a crucial role when it comes to spurring economic growth. b). Effects of Exports on Economic Growth Andrews (2015) studied effect of exports, imports and GDP in Liberia. The period focused for the research was from 1970-2011. The aim of this study was to establish the factors that were Granger Cause of economic growth in Liberia. The data was analysed using vector autoregression model (VAR) to establish these relations with respect to Granger Causality. The research discovered that imports Granger influence both Gross Domestic Product and Exports. The study results further confirmed that that there exists a bi-directional causation between import and Gross Domestic Product. The analysis did not give a suggestion that the economy of Liberia is driven by exports only but by a blend of imports and exports which have long-run effect. The research concluded that exports and GDP have bi-directional causation. Bakari (2017), For this investigation, yearly reports from the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) between the years of 1970 and 2016 were used as sources of the required data. This data was then tested using Co-Integration analysis of the error correction model which gave a long-term conclusion. Considering results obtained, it is correct to say that exports from citrus fruits bear no significant effect on the long run growth of the economy. On the contrary, results from empirical analyses have indicated a positive unidirectional causality between exports of citrus fruits and short-term economic development. There is therefore evidence that exports of citrus fruits are not regarded as a basis for Tunisia’s economic growth and so there has been no sound economic masterplan for the sector. It is therefore necessary that reforms are enacted and implemented to create more robust plans to spur investment and trade in the citrus fruits export sector to stimulate expansion of the economy. The study findings confirmed that exports contribute immensely to economic growth of a country. Masoud and Suleiman (2016) conducted an investigative study between exports, imports and economic expansion in Malaysia by the use of yearly data analysis between the years of 1967 and 2010. The paper utilized the Granger causality tests, VAR alongside cointegration analysis. The actual connection between exports and economic expansion differed from imports to exports. This indicates that the study failed to directly link the country’s export to their spontaneous economic growth. There findings suggested that economic growth within these five countries had resulted to expansion of their export base and not the contrary. Subsequently, the consumer market for goods and services is distorted that leads to poor living standards, increased money laundry, embezzlement of government funds, and slowed growth on SME's. Thus, the imbalances in imports and exports in a given country lead deterioration in economic growth. This was ascertained and confirm through the causality tests interpretation that exports affects economic growth of a nation.

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What is empirical literature review?

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It is the literatures,or previuos studies that relate or argue positively with your studies hypothesis and variables

A Literature review can also include systematic identification, location, and analysis of documents containing information related to a research problem under investigation.

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Empirical Research: Definition, Methods, Types and Examples

What is Empirical Research

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Empirical research: Definition

Empirical research: origin, quantitative research methods, qualitative research methods, steps for conducting empirical research, empirical research methodology cycle, advantages of empirical research, disadvantages of empirical research, why is there a need for empirical research.

Empirical research is defined as any research where conclusions of the study is strictly drawn from concretely empirical evidence, and therefore “verifiable” evidence.

This empirical evidence can be gathered using quantitative market research and  qualitative market research  methods.

For example: A research is being conducted to find out if listening to happy music while working may promote creativity? An experiment is conducted by using a music website survey on a set of audience who are exposed to happy music and another set who are not listening to music at all, and the subjects are then observed. The results derived from such a research will give empirical evidence if it does promote creativity or not.

You must have heard the quote” I will not believe it unless I see it”. This came from the ancient empiricists, a fundamental understanding that powered the emergence of medieval science during the renaissance period and laid the foundation of modern science, as we know it today. The word itself has its roots in greek. It is derived from the greek word empeirikos which means “experienced”.

In today’s world, the word empirical refers to collection of data using evidence that is collected through observation or experience or by using calibrated scientific instruments. All of the above origins have one thing in common which is dependence of observation and experiments to collect data and test them to come up with conclusions.

Types and methodologies of empirical research

Empirical research can be conducted and analysed using qualitative or quantitative methods.

Data collected from these will need to be analysed. Empirical evidence can also be analysed either quantitatively and qualitatively. Using this, the researcher can answer empirical questions which have to be clearly defined and answerable with the findings he has got. The type of research design used will vary depending on the field in which it is going to be used. Many of them might choose to do a collective research involving quantitative and qualitative method to better answer questions which cannot be studied in a laboratory setting.

Quantitative research methods aid in analyzing the empirical evidence gathered. By using these a researcher can find out if his hypothesis is supported or not.

Previously, surveys were taken face to face only with maybe a recorder. However, with advancement in technology and for ease, new mediums such as emails , or social media have emerged.

For example: Depletion of energy resources is a growing concern and hence there is a need for awareness about renewable energy. According to recent studies, fossil fuels still account for around 80% of energy consumption in the United States. Even though there is a rise in the use of green energy every year, there are certain parameters because of which the general population is still not opting for green energy. In order to understand why, a survey can be conducted to gather opinions of the general population about green energy and the factors that influence their choice of switching to renewable energy. Such a survey can help institutions or governing bodies to promote appropriate awareness and incentive schemes to push the use of greener energy.

Learn more: Renewable Energy Survey Template

For example: A particular product company is trying to find what is the reason for them to not be able to capture the market. So the organisation makes changes in each one of the processes like manufacturing, marketing, sales and operations. Through the experiment they understand that sales training directly impacts the market coverage for their product. If the person is trained well, then the product will have better coverage.

For example: Higher educated individuals will get higher paying jobs. This means higher education enables the individual to high paying job and less education will lead to lower paying jobs.

For example: A research to find out benefits of exercise. The target is asked to exercise everyday for a particular period of time and the results show higher endurance, stamina, and muscle growth. This supports the fact that exercise benefits an individual body.

For example: A medical study to find the prevalence of under-nutrition disorders in kids of a given population. This will involve looking at a wide range of parameters like age, ethnicity, location, incomes  and social backgrounds. If a significant number of kids coming from poor families show under-nutrition disorders, the researcher can further investigate into it. Usually a cross sectional study is followed by a longitudinal study to find out the exact reason.

For example: A researcher measured the productivity of employees in a company which gave breaks to the employees during work and compared that to the employees of the company which did not give breaks at all.

Some research questions need to be analysed qualitatively, as quantitative methods are not applicable there. In many cases, in-depth information is needed or a researcher may need to observe a target audience behavior, hence the results needed are in a descriptive form. Qualitative research results will be descriptive rather than predictive. It enables the researcher to build or support theories for future potential quantitative research. In such a situation qualitative research methods are used to derive a conclusion to support the theory or hypothesis being studied.

For example: A report mentioning the solution provided by a company to its client. The challenges they faced during initiation and deployment, the findings of the case and solutions they offered for the problems. Such case studies are used by most companies as it forms an empirical evidence for the company to promote in order to get more business.

For example: setting up a research to observe a particular animal in the rain-forests of amazon. Such a research usually take a lot of time as observation has to be done for a set amount of time to study patterns or behavior of the subject. Another example used widely nowadays is to observe people shopping in a mall to figure out buying behavior of consumers.

For example: A one-on-one interview with the finance minister to gather data on financial policies of the country and its implications on the public.

For example: A mobile phone manufacturer wanting to have a feedback on the dimensions of one of their models which is yet to be launched. Such studies help the company meet the demand of the customer and position their model appropriately in the market.

For example: A lot of companies ask for feedback from the customer in detail mentioning how satisfied are they with their customer support team. Such data enables the researcher to take appropriate decisions to make their support team better.

Sometimes a combination of the methods is also needed for some questions that cannot be answered using only one type of method especially when a researcher needs to gain a complete understanding of complex subject matter.

Since empirical research is based on observation and capturing experiences, it is important to plan the steps to conduct the experiment and how to analyse it. This will enable the researcher to resolve problems or obstacles which can occur during the experiment.

Step #1: Define the purpose of the research

This is the step where the researcher has to answer questions like what exactly do I want to find out? What is the problem statement? Are there any issues in terms of the availability of knowledge, data, time or resources. Will this research be more beneficial than what it will cost.

Before going ahead, a researcher has to clearly define his purpose for the research and set up a plan to carry out further tasks.

Step #2 : Supporting theories and relevant literature

The researcher needs to find out if there are theories which can be linked to his research problem. He has to figure out if any theory can help him support his findings. All kind of relevant literature will help the researcher to find if there are others who have researched this before, or what are the problems faced during this research. The researcher will also have to set up assumptions and also find out if there is any history regarding his research problem

Step #3: Creation of Hypothesis and measurement

Before beginning the actual research he needs to provide himself a working hypothesis or guess what will be the probable result. Researcher has to set up variables, decide the environment for the research and find out how can he relate between the variables.

Researcher will also need to define the units of measurements, tolerable degree for errors, and find out if the measurement chosen will be acceptable by others.

Step #4: Methodology, research design and data collection

In this step, the researcher has to define a strategy for conducting his research. He has to set up experiments to collect data which will enable him to propose the hypothesis. The researcher will decide whether he will need experimental or non experimental method for conducting the research. The type of research design will vary depending on the field in which the research is being conducted. Last but not the least, the researcher will have to find out parameters that will affect the validity of the research design. Data collection will need to be done by choosing appropriate samples depending on the research question. To carry out the research, he can use one of the many sampling techniques. Once data collection is complete, researcher will have empirical data which needs to be analysed.

Step #5: Data Analysis and result

Data analysis can be done in two ways, qualitatively and quantitatively. Researcher will need to find out what qualitative method or quantitative method will be needed or will he need a combination of both. Depending on the analysis of his data, he will know if his hypothesis is supported or rejected. Analyzing this data is the most important part to support his hypothesis.

Step #6: Conclusion

A report will need to be made with the findings of the research. The researcher can give the theories and literature that support his research. He can make suggestions or recommendations for further research on his topic.

Empirical research methodology cycle

A.D. de Groot, a famous dutch psychologist and a chess expert conducted some of the most notable experiments using chess in the 1940’s. During his study, he came up with a cycle which is consistent and now widely used to conduct empirical research. It consists of 5 phases with each phase being as important as the next one. The empirical cycle captures the process of coming up with hypothesis about how certain subjects work or behave and then testing these hypothesis against empirical data in a systematic and rigorous approach. It can be said that it characterizes the deductive approach to science. Following is the empirical cycle.

There is a reason why empirical research is one of the most widely used method. There are a few advantages associated with it. Following are a few of them.

Even though empirical research makes the research more competent and authentic, it does have a few disadvantages. Following are a few of them.

Empirical research is important in today’s world because most people believe in something only that they can see, hear or experience. It is used to validate multiple hypothesis and increase human knowledge and continue doing it to keep advancing in various fields.

For example: Pharmaceutical companies use empirical research to try out a specific drug on controlled groups or random groups to study the effect and cause. This way, they prove certain theories they had proposed for the specific drug. Such research is very important as sometimes it can lead to finding a cure for a disease that has existed for many years. It is useful in science and many other fields like history, social sciences, business, etc.

With the advancement in today’s world, empirical research has become critical and a norm in many fields to support their hypothesis and gain more knowledge. The methods mentioned above are very useful for carrying out such research. However, a number of new methods will keep coming up as the nature of new investigative questions keeps getting unique or changing.

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empirical literature review

SWRK 330 - Social Work Research Methods

What is a Literature Review?

Empirical research.

A literature review  summarizes and discusses previous publications  on a topic.

It should also:

explore past research and its strengths and weaknesses.

be used to validate the target and methods you have chosen for your proposed research.

consist of books and scholarly journals that provide research examples of populations or settings similar to your own, as well as community resources to document the need for your proposed research.

The literature review does not present new  primary  scholarship. 

be completed in the correct citation format requested by your professor  (see the  C itations Tab)

Access Purdue  OWL's Social Work Literature Review Guidelines here .  

Empirical Research  is  research  that is based on experimentation or observation, i.e. Evidence. Such  research  is often conducted to answer a specific question or to test a hypothesis (educated guess).

How do you know if a study is empirical? Read the subheadings within the article, book, or report and look for a description of the research "methodology."  Ask yourself: Could I recreate this study and test these results?

These are some key features to look for when identifying empirical research.

NOTE:  Not all of these features will be in every empirical research article, some may be excluded, use this only as a guide.

See also Empirical Research Guide

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Empirical Study vs. Literature Review

empirical literature review

When writing an essay or an article, it is imperative to identify its theme. The flow of the written content, the information that is presented and all other aspects are based on the topic. When writing the research paper, students often accost empirical studies and literature review. To write a legit paper, it is essential to understand the difference between the two concepts. Both papers account for showing the facts, however, they vary in the approach. If there are difficulties with writing essays, a student can always turn to  write my essays services. They will help you write a paper on almost any subject and on any topic. A question what is empirical research often confuses those who learn. Systematic review vs literature review description is shown below:

1. Legit meaning of empirical research

Empirical research derives conclusions based on experience, which can be directly visualized or indirectly observed with the help of experiments. Normally, the analysis is performed by quantifying the results and the inference is drawn. The idea is to present the findings that are quantifiably observable through calibrated scientific applications. Paper review writers investigate every result before writing any conclusion in a paper or an essay. The experiment is carried out under a planned or controlled observation and the inference is strictly monitored. In contrast to the existing literature, emphasis is on the current findings of the experiment under operation. The previous literature is used to make a hypothesis, which can also be a prediction of a previously proposed theory.

2. How to work on the writing

The results are recorded, and the conclusions are drawn from the same. It is a frequent occurrence that science students are not adept for writing scientific papers. There are multiple services available online that help students with their assignments. The learners can easily avail the services online and get the paper written in accordance with their specific requirements. Services like Edusson or EssayServiceScanner are genuine ones. Students need to login and specify their requirements so that an expert assist with developing the paper. However, before paying a writer, it is better to go through the reviews about the platform. Ensure that it is not a scam. It is also recommended to review the article before you make any submissions.

3. Literature review

In contrast to the empirical study, it is essential to review different researches while working on the literature review. Such an article contains facts and information derived from other theoretical sources. New inferences may be drawn from the compilation of all literature pieces. However, the information and hypothesis are already existent. The literature review is a compilation of all the relevant data in order to produce coherent results. No experimental work may be conducted and the results come out of already existing theories in a systematic manner.

4. Deciding the type of article

College students often have to write different papers. A literature review is when a student attempts to prove or disprove a conceived point or an analysis through literature. By means of existing facts, he or she can challenge a hypothesis or attempt to answer a particular question. The article based on an experiment that was conducted solely to write the paper is an empirical review . The experiment is carried out by means of calibrated instruments in a controlled manner.

It is better to begin writing while conducting the experiment. Observations should be written down systematically during the research. This helps bring out coherence, which is easier to comprehend even later. Furthermore, beginning the writing process earlier provides one with enough time for the review and also produces better work. This is particularly necessary for the empirical papers as the experiments may take time to deliver the desired results. Leaving the writing behind and starting to write it when the deadline is approaching may make the process stressful enough and may lead to confusion. This also hampers with the work leading to decreased levels of quality. Hence, working in a timely way helps in developing the paper and your life on the whole.

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Empirical research in the social sciences and education.

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Ellysa Cahoy

Introduction: What is Empirical Research?

Empirical research is based on observed and measured phenomena and derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief. 

How do you know if a study is empirical? Read the subheadings within the article, book, or report and look for a description of the research "methodology."  Ask yourself: Could I recreate this study and test these results?

Key characteristics to look for:

Another hint: some scholarly journals use a specific layout, called the "IMRaD" format, to communicate empirical research findings. Such articles typically have 4 components:

Reading and Evaluating Scholarly Materials

Reading research can be a challenge. However, the tutorials and videos below can help. They explain what scholarly articles look like, how to read them, and how to evaluate them:

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empirical literature review

Empirical review is very importance in undergraduate project writing . There are so many benefits of having a good empirical review. Every undergraduate project student is expected to understand the technicalities involved in writing a good empirical review.

        The empirical review is the last section of the chapter two of undergraduate project topics . But there some undergraduate project topics that does not require empirical review. Some of these undergraduate project topics are those under the following departments:

Outside these departments I listed above, departments like:

In short all undergraduate project topics under any department in social sciences use empirical review. You can now see how important the use of empirical review is.

        Lest I forget there is one more importance of empirical review; the empirical review for undergraduate project topics is very helpful in determining the gap in any research work. If you are a good researcher you will agree with me that a good research hypothesis comes from the literature review .

        Students that are new to research starts writing their projects from chapter one. But if become experienced in the field of research project writing; you will end starting your research project work from chapter two.

                If you want to write an empirical review, then this is what you should look out for research works by previous authors. Look at literature review that have the authors name, the year he/she carried out his/her research work, the topic he carried out his research work on, his/her findings (this could be in percentage or number), and his/her conclusion.

        Let us take a practical approach to this article. Let us consider the topic Effect of taxes on economic development of Nigeria. Below is example of empirical review for the above topic. As you are going through it, compare it with what I list last section above.

        uniprojectmaterials and research (2020) in their study of taxes and economic growth of U.S economy considered a large sample of countries and documented that 0.2 to 0.3 percentage point differences in growth rate in response to a major tax reform. He stated that small effects could have a large cumulative impact on living standards.

        uniprojectmaterials, (2011) using simple regression analysis and descriptive statistical method, find that the ratio of VAT to GDP averaged 1.3% compared to 4.5% in Indonesia, though VAT revenue accounts for as much as 95% significant variations in GDP in Nigeria.

        uniprojectmaterials, (2013) in their study based on survey method, used questionnaire on 40 respondents to generate data which was measured by a simple majority or percentage of opinions. The study found that more tax compliance is significantly associated with the adequate campaign and judicious utilization of tax funds

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Empirical Research: Defining, Identifying, & Finding

Searching for empirical research.

Where Do I Find Empirical Research?

How do i find more empirical research in my search.

Because empirical research refers to the method of investigation rather than a method of publication, it can be published in a number of places. In many disciplines empirical research is most commonly published in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals . Putting empirical research through the peer review process helps ensure that the research is high quality. 

Finding Peer-Reviewed Articles

You can find peer-reviewed articles in a general web search along with a lot of other types of sources. However, these specialized tools are more likely to find peer-reviewed articles:

Common Types of Articles That Are Not Empirical

However, just finding an article in a peer-reviewed journal is not enough to say it is empirical, since not all the articles in a peer-reviewed journal will be empirical research or even peer reviewed. Knowing how to quickly identify some types non-empirical research articles in peer-reviewed journals can help speed up your search. 

Even once you know how to recognize empirical research and where it is published, it would be nice to improve your search results so that more empirical research shows up for your topic.

There are two major ways to find the empirical research in a database search:



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The cross section of country equity returns: a review of empirical literature.

empirical literature review

1. Introduction

2. datasets and sample preparation, 2.1. country coverage, 2.2. study period, 2.3. return measurement periods, 2.4. currency unit, 2.5. asset universe, 3. methodological choices, 3.1. number of portfolios, 3.2. portfolio weighting scheme, 3.3. return calculation: the treatment of dividends and taxes, 4. cross-sectional patterns in country-level returns, 4.1. momentum, 4.2. size effect, 4.3. value effect, 4.4. seasonality, 4.5. long-run reversal, 4.6. price risk, 4.7. non-price risks, 4.8. other predictors, 4.9. further investment considerations, 5. concluding remarks, conflicts of interest.

Share and Cite

Zaremba, A. The Cross Section of Country Equity Returns: A Review of Empirical Literature. J. Risk Financial Manag. 2019 , 12 , 165. https://doi.org/10.3390/jrfm12040165

Zaremba A. The Cross Section of Country Equity Returns: A Review of Empirical Literature. Journal of Risk and Financial Management . 2019; 12(4):165. https://doi.org/10.3390/jrfm12040165

Zaremba, Adam. 2019. "The Cross Section of Country Equity Returns: A Review of Empirical Literature" Journal of Risk and Financial Management 12, no. 4: 165. https://doi.org/10.3390/jrfm12040165

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What is theoretical and empirical literature?

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Table of Contents

The theoretical review looks at existing theories (concepts or whole), their relationships, extend the theories have been studied and the establishment of new hypotheses. While empirical literature review explores past studies in view of attempting to answer specific research questions.

How do you write a theoretical literature review?

Writing a literature review involves finding relevant publications (such as books and journal articles), critically analyzing them, and explaining what you found….There are five key steps:

What is an example of theoretical research?

In theoretical research, a scientist might postulate rules, conditions, and the state of a cyber system. For example, while not the only way, theoretical models are a good way to develop hypotheses. A theoretical model will enable you to investigate how a cyber system would react under certain stimuli.

What are theories in literature review?

Theories are formulated to explain, predict, and understand phenomena and, in many cases, to challenge and extend existing knowledge within the limits of critical bounding assumptions. The theoretical framework is the structure that can hold or support a theory of a research study.

What is the difference between theoretical and empirical literature review?

Empirical: Based on data gathered by original experiments or observations. Theoretical: Analyzes and makes connections between empirical studies to define or advance a theoretical position.

What does a theoretical framework mean?

The theoretical framework is the structure that can hold or support a theory of a research study. The theoretical framework introduces and describes the theory that explains why the research problem under study exists.

What is an example of theoretical framework?

Concepts often have multiple definitions, so the theoretical framework involves clearly defining what you mean by each term. Example: Problem statement and research questions Company X is struggling with the problem that many online customers do not return to make subsequent purchases.

What are the three types of literature review?

Over the years, numerous types of literature reviews have emerged, but the four main types are traditional or narrative, systematic, meta-analysis and meta-synthesis.

What is the difference between theoretical and empirical literature?

How to write a theoretical framework?

What are some examples of theoretical framework?

What are the aspects of literature?

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Nazia Hasan

Can someone explain theoretical and empirical literature review and how to use these concepts under literature review section in the thesis

empirical literature review

Dear honorable colleagues,

Let me answer this question by copying some of what I have mentioned in my last article:

"There is a clear and distinguishable variance between both theorizing that is largely based on the theoretical-academic world and the implementation that is conducted upon real-world cases. An analogy with this, there may be some considerable gaps between the theories and their corresponding real-world implementation. This mismatch between both of them is, of course, caused by the fact that some metaheuristics are relying on just theoretical or abstract possibilities without applying them viably with the real-world applications or that some of them have been tested and then evaluated using only low-to-mid-range data without exposing them hard on large-range data. Close related to this, a considerable fraction of these researches have been originally initiated for only research purposes without being for real-life applications.

More importantly, some metaheuristics are just carried out inside research labs where some of them have been constructed based on hypothetical projections with only an academic or theoretical vision that may be far away from the factual situations. That is, carrying out lab-problems merely without being exposed to diverse real and hard tests is subject to guesswork and experimentation may lead to unexpected results. On top of all that, nearly the majority of these labs are subject to some financial constraints with rare to no external support available. Inevitably, this lack of certainty may rarely lead to unfaithful decisions and hence far-reaching problems."

empirical literature review

The theoretical review looks at existing theories (concepts or whole), their relationships, extend the theories have been studied and the establishment of new hypotheses. While empirical literature review explores past studies in view of attempting to answer specific research questions.

empirical literature review

Empirical reviews are based on experiments while theoretical reviews focus on and investigate theories already exist. An empirical literature review refers to systematic literature reviews with RCTs while theoretical reviews could include any other types of studies (experimental, non-experimental).

empirical literature review

If both empirical and other review of literature are related, no problem to talk about both of them together in same review. However, if the empirical has a lot of information to gather and discuss, it could be treated separately, although they are less to be reviewed alone. Thanks to your question. Cheers.

empirical literature review

A theoretical literature review is included in pretty much every research paper you will see. Before a researcher can acceptably write about their research, they need to establish it within existing theory. So, essentially, before we discuss our method and research questions, we describe the kind of work that has been done before and show how the variables we intend to examine are established in the theories and frameworks of our research area.

An empirical literature review is more commonly called a systematic literature review and it examines past empirical studies to answer a particular research question. The empirical studies we examine are usually random controlled trials (RCTs). Because most RCTs have low sampling sizes, we can often see mixed results from study to study and we hope to provide more clarity by combining the results of all existing studies.

These two things are similar because they require an examination of past paper in the subject. They differ in that the empirical literature review tends to answer a very specific empirical question and will use data analysis to come to a clear response. The theoretical literature review is really more for setting up the context for your own study. In fact, systematic empirical reviews will also include a theoretical review to set up the reasons for studying their particular research question.

For further information, please check


empirical literature review

The integrated literature review (ILR) is the type of literature review that is not either theoretical literature review or empirical literature review but integrating both. Maybe it could serve as one way to fill the gap between 'theoretical-academic world' and 'real-world cases' that Nidhal Kamel Taha El-Omari mentioned of? Anyway, from the day I started to learn the ILR method, I found it could be very powerful!

empirical literature review

Literature review reflect the scan of related previous significant studies

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Institutional Capital, Ancestral Hall, and the Reshaping of Ancient Rule: an Empirical Analysis of the New Energy of Chinese Heritage Elements in Rural Revitalization

Journal of the Knowledge Economy ( 2023 ) Cite this article

Metrics details

In rural areas of China, the ancestral hall is a unique traditional cultural icon, exerting a long-lasting influence on rural development. However, the institutional structuring effect of ancestral halls on rural economies in the current century has been ignored. The impact of ancestral halls on the regional economy of the town level in Fujian Province is explored in this paper using data from the China Statistical Yearbook and ancestral halls from Fujian’s provincial cultural heritage protection list. Based on the research, it is evident that the quantity and size of ancestral halls correlate positively with economic growth. The ancestral hall promotes economic growth through its endogenous institutional shaping function as a vital vehicle for institutional capital. This article argues that during the rural revitalization process, practitioners, and policymakers should maximize the use of traditional cultural institution elements to foster rural institution evolution and thus establish a mechanism for effective rural social governance and entrepreneurial innovation. This paper fills the gap of comprehensive research on specific cultural icons in economics and provides empirical sample of the knowledge economy research for further exploring the interactive relationship between entrepreneurship and knowledge inheritance.

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Zhang, F.L., Ayoungman, F.Z. & Islam, M.S. Institutional Capital, Ancestral Hall, and the Reshaping of Ancient Rule: an Empirical Analysis of the New Energy of Chinese Heritage Elements in Rural Revitalization. J Knowl Econ (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13132-023-01243-7

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