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CHEM 187: Foundations of Teaching & Learning Science (Winter 2024): Research Process

Empirical research involves direct and indirect experience or observation. There is a research question to be answered, there is a hypothesis, followed by experimentation and the collection of data.

It's often clear from the article's abstract whether or not it was based on empirical research. Among the databases:

  • ERIC has a Document Type (143 Reports - Research) that includes empirical results
  • PsycINFO allows you to limit to empirical studies under Methodology
Research is a process...research process

Adapted from the MMW / MCWP / CAT guides

In science and engineering, researchers report their findings in the primary literature: journal articles and conference papers (and patents). New research articles are searchable on the publisher websites, and you can set up alerts to get notified--by email or RSS feeds--when new articles are posted.

However, the key entry point into the scientific literature are the databases that index journal articles, as well as patents and proceedings depending on the database.

You can also save database searches to get alerts of new, relevant articles.

Articles may also get shared and publicized through social media, university press releases, trade magazines like Chemical and Engineering News, and depending on the significance or potential interest in that research outside the scientific community, popular news outlets. But as the research enters the science news cycle, the claims or conclusions made in the article may get reinterpreted for different audiences.

Research articles are read and, over time, may be cited in other research articles, often in the introduction or literature review section. They may also be cited in review articles that summarize the most recent research developments, and later books and encyclopedia articles.


RESEARCH ARTICLES report on original research from a study or experiment ("We had a hypothesis, we did something to test the hypothesis, and these are the results.") REVIEW ARTICLES summarize research in a given field of study by looking at the research articles. These articles do not contain original research, though may draw additional conclusions.  These articles can serve as excellent summaries on a research topic, as well as point you to key research articles.

The Effect of Computer Models As Formative Assessment on Student Understanding of the Nature of Models

This study reports the effect of computer models as formative assessment on high school students' understanding of the nature of models. Nine high school teachers integrated computer models and associated formative assessments into their yearlong high school chemistry course. A pre-test and post-test of students' understanding of the nature of models using a published measurement instrument on the nature of models were conducted. A four-step hierarchical multiple regression and a two-level (level 1 – student and level 2 – teacher) hierarchical linear modeling were used to test the effect of the intervention on students' understanding of the nature of models. Our analysis revealed a significant effect of frequencies of using computer models for four of the five sub-scales related to the nature of models. The implications of these findings are that, as students have more experience using computer models in their classroom, they develop a better understanding of the nature of models. However, their understanding of models as multiple representations didn't show a significant improvement, possibly due to the lack of support from teachers, who in turn need both content and pedagogical supports within their teaching.

Computer Simulations to Support Science Instruction and Learning: A Critical Review of the Literature

Researchers have explored the effectiveness of computer simulations for supporting science teaching and learning during the past four decades. The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive, critical review of the literature on the impact of computer simulations on science teaching and learning, with the goal of summarizing what is currently known and providing guidance for future research. We report on the outcomes of 61 empirical studies dealing with the efficacy of, and implications for, computer simulations in science instruction. The overall findings suggest that simulations can be as effective, and in many ways more effective, than traditional (i.e. lecture-based, textbook-based and/or physical hands-on) instructional practices in promoting science content knowledge, developing process skills, and facilitating conceptual change. As with any other educational tool, the effectiveness of computer simulations is dependent upon the ways in which they are used. Thus, we outline specific research-based guidelines for best practice. Computer simulations are most effective when they (a) are used as supplements; (b) incorporate high-quality support structures; (c) encourage student reflection; and (d) promote cognitive dissonance. Used appropriately, computer simulations involve students in inquiry-based, authentic science explorations. Additionally, as educational technologies continue to evolve, advantages such as flexibility, safety, and efficiency deserve attention.