Empirical Research

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What is Empirical research?

In empirical study, conclusions of the study are drawn from concrete empirical evidence. This evidence is also referred to as “verifiable” evidence. This evidence is gathered either through quantitative market research or qualitative market research methods.

An example of empirical analysis  would be if a researcher was interested in finding out whether listening to happy music promotes prosocial behaviour. An experiment could be conducted where one group of the audience is exposed to happy music and the other is not exposed to music at all. The participants could be given an opportunity to either help a stranger with something or not. The results are then evaluated to find whether happy music increases prosaically behavior or not.

Empirical Research

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What is an Empirical Study?

The origin of empirical methods starts from the quote “I will not believe it unless I see it myself.” Empirical observation emerged during the renaissance with medieval science. The word empirical is derived from the Greek word ‘empeirikos’ meaning ‘experienced’.

The word empirical, in today’s day and age, refers to collecting empirical data through methods of observation, experience, or by specific scientific instruments. All of these methods are dependent on observation and experiments which are used to collect data and test the same for arriving at conclusions. Online survey tools are an extremely effective technique which can be used for empirical methods.

Types and methodologies of empirical research

Empirical study uses qualitative or quantitative methods to conduct research and analyze results. 

  • Quantitative research: Quantitative research is referred to as the process of collecting as well as analyzing numerical data. It is generally used to find patterns, averages, predictions, as well as cause-effect relationships between the variables being studied. It is also used to generalize the results of a particular study to the population in consideration.
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  • Qualitative research: Qualitative research can be defined as a method used for market research which aims at obtaining data through open-ended questions and conversations with the intended consumers. This method aims at establishing not only “what” people think but “how” they come to that opinion as well as “why” they think so.

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Empirical Research 3

The empirical data that is collected from either of these methods has to be analyzed. Empirical evidence is analyzed using qualitative or quantitative methods. These methods are used to answer empirical questions that are clearly defined. The type of research design used by the researcher depends on the field and the nature of the problem. Some researchers use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to answer the questions set for the research.

Quantitative research methods

Quantitative research methods help in the analysis of the empirical evidence that has been gathered. By using these methods researchers can find support for their hypotheses.

  • Survey research: Survey research is the most common and widely used tool for quantitative research. Surveys are used to gather data by asking relevant questions to the respondents who are thought to have the relevant information we are seeking to acquire. Generally, a formal list of questionnaires is prepared which is circulated to the respondents and they can self-report their thoughts. Researchers use a non-disguised approach so that the participants of the survey know exactly what they are answering. In general, respondents are asked questions regarding their demographic details, and the opinion that the researcher is interested in studying. Surveys can be conducted through online polls, paper-pencil questionnaires, web-intercept surveys, etc. 

For example: In market research, customers are deemed as the most important part of the organisation. It is a known fact that satisfied customers will help your organisation grow directly by remaining loyal to your company and also by becoming an advocate for your brand. Researchers can use customer satisfaction survey templates to assess their brand’s value and how likely their customers are to recommend their brand to others.

  • Experimental research: This is one of the most recommended and reliant research methods in natural as well as social sciences. As the name suggests, experimental research (also known as experimentation) is usually based on one of more theories as its driving principle or rationale. In this method, the theory which is under study has not yet proven, it is merely a speculation. Thus, an experiment is performed in order to either prove or disprove the theory. If the results of the experiment are in line with the prediction made by the theory, then the theory is supported. If not, then the theory is refuted. 

For instance, if a researcher wants to study whether their dandruff protection product is successful in curing dandruff, and the only difference between the two groups under study is the product of interest (one group uses the product while group 2 uses a placebo), then dandruff could be considered as the dependent variable and the product curing it would be called an independent variable. Now, the independent variable, here, is “manipulated” in the sense that one group is exposed to it and one is not. All things being constant, if the product cures dandruff in group 1 as opposed to the group that is using a placebo, the experimental research findings are successful. This will help in establishing a cause and effect relationship, the product is “causing” the treatment (“effect”) of dandruff.

  • Correlational research: A correlation refers to an association or a relationship between two entities. A correlational research studies how one entity impacts the other and what are the changes that are observed when either one of them changes.  correlation coefficient ranges from -1 to +1. A correlation coefficient of +1 indicates a perfect positive correlation whereas a correlation coefficient of -1 indicates a perfect negative correlation between two variables. A correlation coefficient of 0 indicates that there is no relationship between the variables under study.

Some examples of correlational research questions: 

  1. What is the relationship between gender and the purchase of a particular product under study?
  2. The relationship between stress and burnout in employees of an organisation.
  3. The relationship between choosing to work from home and the level of corona-phobia in employees.
  • Longitudinal study: Longitudinal surveys, on the other hand, involve studying variables for a long period of time and observing the changes in them from time to time. Here, the data is collected from the respondents at the beginning of the study, and then the researcher collects data at different time intervals until the end of the study. Longitudinal surveys are more popularly used in medicinal science to understand and evaluate the effects of medicines, or vaccines, in the long-run on participants. Because longitudinal surveys take place for several years, researchers can establish the sequence of events that may affect the variable under study.

For example: If researchers want to understand how smoking affects the development of cancer in later stages of life, they would choose participants who are different from other observable variables but similar in one: smoking. In this case, researchers would observe the participants who started smoking from adolescence into later adulthood and examine the changes in their body that are caused due to smoking. They can see how smoking has influenced the immunity of participants, their reaction to stress, and other variables relevant to the researcher. Over time, researchers can also observe the effects of quitting smoking if some participants decide to quit smoking later in their life. This will help researchers understand the interaction between health and smoking in more detail.

  • Cross sectional: In cross-sectional surveys, the study takes place at a single point in time. Hence, cross-sectional surveys do not entail the manipulation of the variables under study, and are limited in that way. Cross-sectional surveys allow researchers to study various characteristics, such as the demographic structure of the consumers, their interests, and attitudes, all at once. It aims to provide information about the population at the current moment in time. For example, cross-sectional surveys will tell us how the consumer is responding and feeling about the product at the present moment. It does not study the other variables that may affect the consumers’ reactions to the product in the future.

For example: Let us consider a researcher who is aiming to study developmental psychology. He/she may select groups of people who are of different ages but study them at one point in time. In this way, the difference between the groups will be attributed to their age differences instead of other variables that may happen over time.

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Qualitative research methods

A qualitative approach is more appropriate when tackling some research questions. This is especially true if the researcher wishes to observe the behaviors of the target audience in-depth. The results here are in descriptive form. Qualitative research is not predictive in nature. It enables researchers to build and support their theories to advance future potential quantitative research. Qualitative research methods are used to come up with conclusions to support the theory or hypothesis under study.

  • Case study: Case studies have evolved to become a valuable method for qualitative research. It is used for explaining a case of an organization or an entity. This is one of the simplest ways of conducting research because it involves an exhaustive understanding of the data collected and the interpretation of the same. 

For example: For example; let’s assume that a researcher is interested in understanding how to effectively solve the problems of turnover in organizations. While exploring, he came across an organization that had high rates of turnover and was able to solve the problem by the end of the year. The researcher can study this case in detail and come up with methods that increased the chances of success for this organization.

  • Observational method:  When doing qualitative research, maintaining the existing records can be a valuable source of information in the future. This data can be used in new research and also provide insights for the same. Observation is one of the common aspects that is used in every method we described above. It can be systematic or naturalistic. Qualitative observation of respondents’ answers, or their behaviors in particular settings can yield enriching insights. Hence, observation in qualitative research is used to gather information about relevant characteristics that the researcher is interested in studying.

For instance, if a smartphone brand wants to see how customers react to its products in a showroom, observers may be hired to note the same. The observers can use the recorded observations to evaluate and draw inferences about the customers.

  • One-on-one interview: Interviewing people of interest is one of the most common practices in qualitative research. Here, there is an in-depth personal interview carried out either face-to-face or through online mediums with one respondent at a time. This is a conversational method of gathering information and it invites the researcher with an opportunity to get a detailed response from the respondent.

For example: A one-on-one interview with an environmentalist will help to gather data on the current climate crisis in the world. 

  • Focus groups:  Another most commonly used method in qualitative research apart from interviewing people is focus group. In this method, data is usually conducted once a researcher includes a limited number of consumers (usually ranging from 6 to 10) from the target market and forms a group. 

For example: Let’s assume a researcher wants to explore what are qualities consumers value when buying a laptop. This could be the display quality, battery life, brand value, or even the color. The researcher can make a focus group of people who buy laptops regularly and understand the dynamics a consumer considers when buying electronic devices.

  • Text analysis: In text analysis, researchers analyze the social life of the respondents in the study and aim to decode the actions and the words of the respondents. Hence, text analysis is distinct from other qualitative research methods as it focuses on the social life of the respondents. In the last decade or so, text analysis has become increasingly popular due to the analysis of what consumers share on social media platforms in the form of blogs, images, and other texts. 

For example: Companies ask their customers to give detailed feedback on how satisfied they are with their customer support team. This data helps them make appropriate decisions to improve their team.

Sometimes researchers use a combination of methods to answer the questions. This is especially true when researchers tackle complex subject matters.

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Steps for conducting empirical research

Since empirical methods are based on observation and capturing experiences, it is important to plan the steps to conduct the experiment and how to analyze 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

The very first step is for the researcher to identify the area of research and the problem can be addressed by finding out ways to solve it. The researcher should come up with various questions regarding what is the problem, who will benefit from the research, how should they go about the process, etc. The researchers should explore the purpose of the research in detail.

Step #2 : Supporting theories and relevant literature

After exploring and finding out the purpose of the research, the researcher must aim to find if there are existing theories that have addressed this before. The researcher has to figure out whether any previous studies can help them support their research. During this stage of empirical study, the researcher should aim at finding all relevant literature that will help them understand the problem at hand. The researcher should also come up with his/her own set of assumptions or problem statements that they wish to explore. 

Step #3: Creation of Hypothesis and measurement

If the researcher is aiming to solve a problem the problem has not been resolved efficiently in previous research, then the researcher creates his/her own problem statement. This problem statement, also called hypothesis, will be based on the questions that the researcher came up with while identifying the area of concern. The researcher can also form a hypothesis on the basis of prior research they found and studied during the literature review phase of the study.

Step #4: Methodology, research design and empirical data collection

Here the researcher has to define the strategies to be used for conducting the research. They can set up experiments in collecting data that can help them come up with probable hypotheses. On the basis of the hypotheses, researchers can decide whether they will require experimental or non-experimental methods for the conduction of the research. The research design will depend upon the field in which the research is to be conducted. The researchers will need to find parameters that can affect the validity of the research design. Researchers also need to choose appropriate methods of data collection, which in turn depends on the research question. There are many sampling methods that can be used by the researcher. Once, the data is collected, it has to be analysed.

Step #5: Data Analysis and result

Data can be analyzed either qualitatively and quantitatively. Researchers will need to decide which method they will employ depending upon the nature of the empirical data collected. Researchers can also use a combination of both for their study. On the basis of the analysis, the hypothesis will either be supported or rejected. Data analysis is the most important aspect of empirical observation.

Step #6: Conclusion

The researcher will have to collate the findings and make a report based on the empirical observations. The researcher can use previous theories and literature to support their hypothesis and lineage of findings. The researcher can also make recommendations for future research on similar issues.

Advantages of Empirical research

The advantages of empirical study are highlighted below:

  • Used for authentication. Empirical study is used to authenticate previous findings of experiments and empirical observations. This research methodology makes the conducted study more authentic and accurate. 
  • Empirical approach is useful for understanding dynamic changes. Due to the detailed process of literature review, empirical analysis is used in helping researchers understand dynamic changes in the field. It also enables them to strategies accordingly.
  • Provides a level of control. Empirical approach empowers researchers to demonstrate a level of control by allowing them to control multiple variables under study.
  • Empirical methods Increase internal validity. The high level of control in the research process makes an empirical method demonstrate high internal validity.

Disadvantages of Empirical research

Empirical approach is not without its limitations. Some of them include:

  • Time consuming. Empirical studies are time consuming because it requires researchers to collect data through multiple sources. It also requires them to assess various parameters involved in the research. 
  • Empirical approach is Expensive. The researcher may have to conduct the research at different locations or environments which may be expensive.
  • Difficult to acquire consent/permission. Sometimes empirical studies may be difficult to conduct due to the rules that are to be followed when conducting it.
  • Data collection in the empirical approach can be a problem. Since empirical data has to be collected from different methods and sources, it can pose a problem to the researchers.

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Why is there a need for empirical research?

Because most people today only believe in their experiences, empirical observation is increasingly becoming important. It is used to validate various hypotheses or refute them in the face of evidence. It also increases human knowledge and advances scientific progression. 

For instance, empirical analysis is used by pharmaceutical companies to test specific drugs. This is done by administering the drug on an experimental group, while giving a placebo to the control group. This is done to prove theories about the proposed drug and check its efficacy. This is the most crucial way in which leading evidence for various drugs have been found for many years. 

Empirical methods are used not just in medical science, but also in history, social science, market research, etc.

In today’s world it has become critical to conduct empirical analysis in order to support hypotheses and gather knowledge in several fields. The methods under empirical studies mentioned above help researchers to carry out research.

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