Empirical evidence is information that researchers generate to help discover answers to questions. They can have significant implications for our society. Statements and arguments that depend on empirical evidence are often called a posteriori (following experience). This unlike a priori (which precedes it). A priori knowledge or justification is independent of experience, whereas ex post knowledge or justification depends on experience or empirical evidence. The standard positivist view of empirically acquired information has been that observation, experience, and experiment serve as neutral arbiters between rival theories.

What is Empirical Evidence?

Empirical evidence is information that verifies the truth (which corresponds exactly to reality) or the falsity (inaccuracy) of a claim. From an empirical point of view, one can claim to have knowledge only when based on empirical evidence. Empirical evidence is information acquired by observation or experimentation, in the form of recorded data, that can be analyzed. This is the main source of empirical evidence. Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials may be articles in popular newspapers or magazines, book or movie reviews.

They may also be articles found in academic journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research. Empirical evidence can be synonymous with the result of an experiment. In this sense, an empirical result is a unified confirmation. In this context, the term semi-empirical is used to qualify theoretical methods that use, in part, basic axioms or postulated scientific laws and experimental results. These methods are opposed to theoretical ab initio methods, which are purely deductive and based on first principles.

Theory versus empirical evidence

Researchers may have theories about how something will develop. However, what is observed or experienced may be different from what the theory could predict. In this way, to know the effectiveness of something, you have to test it. Researchers generally collect data through direct or indirect observation and analyze this data to answer empirical questions. That is, questions that can be answered through observation. In this regard, social scientists produce empirical evidence in a variety of ways to test theories and measure A's ability to produce an expected result that would be B.

Let's look at an example: Engineers and scientists equipped cars with various safety devices in various configurations. They then smashed them into walls, poles and other cars and recorded what happened. Over time, they were able to discover which types of security devices worked and which did not. They didn't do everything right right away. For example, the first seat belts were not retractable. Some airbags fired pieces of metal at passengers. But, auto safety has improved, and while people drive more and more miles, fewer and fewer die on the road.

Types of empirical evidence

The two main types of empirical evidence are qualitative evidence and quantitative evidence.


Qualitative evidence is the type of data that describes non-measurable information. This data is used in various disciplines, especially in the social sciences, as well as in market research and finance. In such fields, research generally investigates human behavior and its patterns. The unmeasurable nature of qualitative data, as well as its subjective analysis, makes it prone to possible biases.


Quantitative evidence refers to numerical data that can be further analyzed using mathematical and / or statistical methods. This data is used in almost all disciplines of science. Unlike qualitative data, evidence obtained using quantitative data is generally considered impartial. The validity of the data can be easily verified by calculations or mathematical or statistical analysis.

Empirical Evidence and Analysis of Social Networks

Studying social media provides a concise and comprehensive introduction to the empirical network research process. The Analysis of Social Networks is the method of Online Research of greater depth and importance today. It is the most used by both academic and non-academic researchers around the world, so it is necessary to understand the use of empirical evidence in this case.

In that sense, when doing a brief investigation on the matter, the name of Helen Hall Jennings stands out. His contribution was the development, before anyone else, of quantitative research methods that gave rise to Sociometry, a quantitative method to measure social relations. This pioneering work is considered the birth of Social Network Analysis. Jennings was a social psychologist, specializing in empirical research designs.

Working in the Psychology laboratory of Psychologist Gardner Murphy, she met Jacob Moreno. This was an eminent Psychosociologist, founder of Psychodrama and Group Psychotherapy, who would be essential for his investigations. Through his expertise in quantitative and statistical methods, Jennings worked with Moreno to develop an empirical approach to social media research.

The researcher Christina Pell points out that together they studied how social relationships affect the psychological well-being of individuals. They also used quantitative methods to study group structure and the positions of individuals within groups.

The Jennings and Moreno Investigations

Jennings' work is incomplete without the effective duo he built with Jacob Moreno. They developed an approximation method that included all the characteristics of Social Network Analysis. It was based on structural insights, involved systematic collection of empirical data, and an explicit mathematical model was used.

More importantly, that structural perspective was uniformly applied to a wide range of phenomena. Thus, the Moreno and Jennings group used the four characteristics that define Social Network Analysis. Jennings' input was crucial as Moreno's approach was more instinctive. He intuitively suggested ideas, Jennings placed them within a quantitative and numerical framework.

The investigations by Jennings and Moreno at Sing Sing Maximum Security Prison and at the Hudson School for Girls were a major advance. This systematic analysis and data collection led to two famous works: "Applications of the Group Method for classification" and "A new approach to the problem of human interrelations". Both are considered to be the genesis of Sociometry.

In 1943, Jennings' doctoral thesis "Leadership and Isolation: A Study of Personality in Interpersonal Relations" examines how elected and isolated leaders emerge in a given population. It was a continuation of the analysis of the data collected at the Hudson School for girls. Respondents were asked who they would like to work with and who they would like to live with. Eight months later, their views on who they had chosen as leaders and who as outcasts or isolates had not changed.

Collect empirical evidence in social sciences

Educational research is not the same as automotive research. However, education can be improved by trying new things. By collecting data on those efforts, the data is rigorously analyzed. Then all available empirical evidence is weighed to see if those new things achieve the expected results. Unfortunately, rigorous analysis is often difficult in the social sciences.

In automotive engineering labs, one design bit can be changed at a time so that each test isolates the individual factor. In social sciences trying to isolate variables is challenging, but it is possible if researchers can make comparisons using the randomized control trial (RCT).

The randomized control trial (RCT) is a trial in which subjects are randomly assigned to one of two groups. One (the experimental group) receiving the intervention being tested and the other (the comparison or control group) receiving a (conventional) alternative. These two groups are then followed up to see if there is any difference between them in the result.

The results and subsequent analysis of the trial are used to assess the effectiveness of the intervention. This is the degree to which a treatment, procedure, or service makes patients more beneficial than harmful. RCTs are the strictest way to determine if there is a cause and effect relationship between the intervention and the result.

Hypothesis Research


The goal of science is that all empirical data that has been collected through observation, experience, and experimentation is unbiased. The strength of any scientific research depends on the ability to collect and analyze empirical data. In this regard, it must be carried out in the most impartial and controlled manner possible. Because scientists are human and error-prone, scientists often collect empirical data that replicates experiments independently.

This also protects against scientists who unconsciously or in rare cases consciously deviate from prescribed research parameters. This, of course, could skew the results. Recording empirical data is also crucial to the scientific method. Science can only advance if the data is shared and analyzed.

Bibliographic References

Galán, C. y Montero, J. (2002). El discurso tecnocientífico: la caja de herramientas del lenguaje. Madrid, España: Arco Libros.

León, O. G. (2009). Cómo redactar textos científicos en Psicología y Educación. La Coruña, España: Gesbiblo,S.L.

León,O.G. y Montero,I. (2003). Métodos de investigación en Psicología y Educación (3ªedición). Madrid, España: McGraw Hill.

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