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MS_HE_407-0: Research & Analysis II: Finding Empirical Studies

Searching for Studies

In order to identify useful sources of data and to help develop ideas for creating your own data collection strategies, it's often helpful to go back to your search for secondary literature, but this time focused more on finding empirical analysis.

Go back to the subject databases you used to find background material on your topic (see the Finding Articles tab above) and enter the same terms you used for your topic. You'll probably want to use the advanced search mode for this. Now add a few more keywords to your search that express the idea of "empirical analysis" to help narrow the results. Use terms like:

  • survey
  • impact
  • assessment
  • empirical
  • outcomes

If you find there are too many results to review easily, try limiting your search to the title and abstract fields.


When you find an article that's on point, access the full text by following the links in the database entry. Remember to use the purple Find It @NU button if the full text is not available in the database.

Be sure to download the PDF version of the article whenever possible, as this will be the closest to the original published version.


Scan the article to find the methods section, which describes the details of how the study was conducted. While this section is typically labeled "Methods" it might also be called by other names, including: "Study Design," "Methodology," "Procedures," "Data Gathering," etc. There might also be a separate subsection within the methods section that focuses on data collection specifically. Be sure to read these sections closely.

The methods section should identify the techniques the authors employed to obtain information from each subject in the study. This will tell you if the authors used surveys or interviews, as well as any existing instruments, such as an attitude assessment scale or aptitude test to measure the subject's change in response to the experimental condition or intervention. Make note of the names of any instruments, as you can then do follow-up searches in databases such as Mental Measurements Yearbook and Health & Psychosocial Instruments to find out how to obtain copies of these tests for your own research. See the Tests & Measures tab above for more information on finding these. Often if the authors used their own survey, the actual questionnaire may be included in the article as an attachment.



By looking at the methods employed in multiple studies related to your topic, you will begin to learn what sort of techniques are effective for gathering data for your own research. In addition to your course readings, many of the books listed in the Readings on Social Research tab above offer advice on developing interview and survey questions.