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Communication Studies

Identifying empirical articles

Most library databases contain a variety of types of articles from scholarly, peer reviewed sources to trade publications aimed at people working in a particular industry. If you have been asked to identify empirical articles, you will need to critically look at the sources you find to see if they will meet your needs. A screenshot of an the "refine results" tools in an EBSCO search, with a yellow highlighted box around the option to limit to scholarly or peer reviewed journals.


  1. First off, limit your search to scholarly or peer reviewed articles. After you have conducted your initial search, look for check box on the left side of the page. Check this box to exclude trade publications and other non-scholarly sources.
  2. Once you find an article that looks interesting, click on the title. This will show you the record for the article.
  3. Take a look at the abstract. It should give you an overview of the article. Empirical articles will often give you an idea of their methdology and basic findings. Here's an example (click the image to see a larger version).

  4. If you're still not sure, look at the full text of the article. Can you identify a methodology section that tells you how the researchers collected and analyzed their data? Take a look at the full PDF of this article to see if you can find the method section.