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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research Articles and Peer Reviewed Journals

A step-by-step guide to understanding and finding research articles and peer reviewed journals


There are many types of research and each one can use different methods for collecting information. This glossary clarifies some of the research terms you may come across during your search. This glossary is also a good resource for refining questions you may have for your professor about the assignment.

Terms to Understand

Case Studies

A type of research that focuses on a single individual, a group of participants, an event, or a community.

Empirical Studies

Research based on critical evaluation through observation or experimentation.

Experimental Research

Examines the relationship between two variables. This type of research conducts experiments on test and control groups to test a hypothesis about the relationship between two variables.

Historical or Interpretive Research

Studies that examine past events and procedures. This type of study attempts to predict future events or make suggestions for future actions. Types of historical or interpretive research studies include: biographical; histories of institutions and organizations; investigation of sources and influences; editing and translating historical documents; studying the history of ideas; or compiling bibliographies.

Qualitative Research

Observes the experiences of a particular group and attempts to understand their actions and reactions. Field studies and ethnographic techniques are examples of this type of research.

Survey Research Studies

Examines small groups of the population in order to learn about the larger population. Observation of the smaller group produces data about the larger population. This data is used to predict future actions or results.

User Studies

Research that evaluates the way in which systems or institutions are used and how the needs of users can be addressed.