Empirical method

Empirical method

"Empirical method" is generally taken to mean the collection of data on which to base a theory or derive a conclusion in science. It is part of the scientific method, but is often mistakenly assumed to be synonymous with the experimental method.

The empirical method is not sharply defined and is often contrasted with the precision of the experimental method, where data are derived from the systematic manipulation of variables in an experiment. Some of the difficulty in discussing the empirical method is from the ambiguity of the meaning of its linguist root: "empiric".

According to Oxford English Dictionary

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd Edition, 1989), empiric is derived from the ancient Greek for experience, "polytonic|έpolytonic|μpolytonic|πpolytonic|εpolytonic|ιpolytonic|ρpolytonic|ίpolytonic|α", which is ultimately derived from "polytonic|έpolytonic|υ" in + "polytonic|πpolytonic|εpolytonic|ἳpolytonic|ρpolytonic|α" trial, experiment. Therefore, empirical data is information that is derived from the trials and errors of experience. In this way, the empirical method is similar to the experimental method. However, an essential difference is that in an experiment the different "trials" are strictly manipulated so that an inference can be made as to causation of the observed change that results. This contrasts with the empirical method of aggregating naturally occurring data.

Adding further confusion is another connotation of empiric. Strict empiricists are those who derive their rules of practice entirely from experience, to the exclusion of philosophical theory.

The OED further states that an empiric is "one who, either in medicine or in other branches of science, relies "solely" upon observation and experiment" [emphasis added] . In this case, an empiricist can be someone who conducts an experiment but without using a hypothesis to guide the process, i.e., strictly by the trial-and-error method. This is counter to one of the main tenets of the scientific method, that of the hypothetico-deductive method, where the manipulation of the variable in an experiment is dictated by the hypothesis being tested.

According to AccessScience@McGraw-Hill

The empirical method is generally characterized by the collection of a large amount of data before much speculation as to their significance, or without much idea of what to expect, and is to be contrasted with more theoretical methods in which the collection of empirical data is guided largely by preliminary theoretical exploration of what to expect. The empirical method is necessary in entering hitherto completely unexplored fields, and becomes less purely empirical as the acquired mastery of the field increases. Successful use of an exclusively empirical method demands a higher degree of intuitive ability in the practitioner.

See also

* Qualitative research
* Scientific method


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • empirical method — empirinis metodas statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. empirical method vok. empirische Methode, f rus. эмпирический метод, m pranc. méthode empirique, f …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • Quasi-empirical method — Quasi empirical methods are applied in science and in mathematics. The term empirical methods refers to experiment, disclosure of apparatus for reproduction of experiments, and other ways in which science is validated by scientists. Empirical… …   Wikipedia

  • empirical — [em pir′i kəl] adj. [ EMPIRIC + AL] 1. relying or based solely on experiment and observation rather than theory [the empirical method] 2. relying or based on practical experience without reference to scientific principles [an empirical remedy]… …   English World dictionary

  • empirical — 01. A wealth of [empirical] evidence has been found to support his hypothesis. 02. There is little [empirical] evidence at this point to support his theories. 03. They have based their hypothesis on [empirically] based research done at Cambridge… …   Grammatical examples in English

  • method — methodless, adj. /meth euhd/, n. 1. a procedure, technique, or way of doing something, esp. in accordance with a definite plan: There are three possible methods of repairing this motor. 2. a manner or mode of procedure, esp. an orderly, logical,… …   Universalium

  • Empirical probability — Empirical probability, also known as relative frequency, or experimental probability, is the ratio of the number favourable outcomes to the total number of trials [ [http://www.answers.com/topic/empirical probability statistics Empirical… …   Wikipedia

  • Empirical reflectance retrieval — is a technique in satellite imaging for determining the reflectance of unknown targets by comparison with those areas whose reflectance is independently known. The concept of Empirical Reflectance Retrieval was developed to address the difficulty …   Wikipedia

  • Empirical (disambiguation) — Empirical may refer to: *Empirical, a central concept in science and the scientific method *Empirical, a music project by New Zealander Marcel Bear *Empirical, a British contemporary jazz quintet …   Wikipedia

  • Empirical studies — in social sciences are when the research ends are based on evidence and not just theory. This is done to comply with the scientific method that asserts the objective discovery of knowledge based on verifiable facts of evidence. The concept of an… …   Wikipedia

  • Empirical treatment — is a medical treatment not derived from the scientific method, but derived from observation, survey or common use.In the medical profession, the term is also used when treatment is started before a diagnosis is confirmed (example: antibiotics)… …   Wikipedia