Literature review is a crucial component of research since it contextualises the research, helps identify gaps, and helps the researcher justify the rationale of research and how it will fill the existing gaps. Empirical literature reviews evaluate empirical studies and infer empirical data from the studies to address the research question, unlike theoretical literature reviews. Theoretical literature reviews critically evaluate existing research on theories for conceptual understanding. Also, theoretical literature reviews identify the knowledge gaps, summarise the theoretical underpinnings and suggest steps for addressing those gaps. Researchers must know the differences between empirical and theoretical literature reviews. This article will tell you the difference between empirical literature reviews and theoretical literature reviews.
What are Empirical literature reviews?
Empirical literature reviews in research evaluate existing empirical studies to address specific research topics. The goal of the researcher is to evaluate the empirical studies by measuring the empirical data and observations instead of theoretical perspectives. Empirical researchers often need factual and reliable information to address the specific empirical research question and empirical literature reviews furnish them with reliable information.
Researchers identify gaps in the existing studies and justify the significance of their empirical research that how certain neglected areas will be addressed and quantified by the current research. For example, social science researchers often utilise empirical research studies to get a firm grasp of factual knowledge of the field. Social scientists review the literature to identify population dynamics, mortality rates, employment, and gender gap. All this information helps them identify what areas are not highlighted in the literature and justify the need for addressing the issue for deriving empirical observations and conclusions.
What are Theoretical research reviews?
Theoretical research reviews unlike empirical research reviews seek to understand the conceptual underpinnings of a particular field. Theoretical studies are mostly exploratory in nature and engage in abstract theorisations instead of seeking specific quantifiable information. Theoretical research reviews evaluate the theoretical literature encompassing the relevant field and identify the various theories and abstract conceptualisations. After reviewing these studies, researchers identify the knowledge gaps and summarise the previous studies and provide suggestions on what further steps can be taken by researchers to address the knowledge gaps. Theoretical literature reviews often build the foundational concepts for empirical studies. These studies help empirical researchers design and structure empirical studies based on identified gaps.
What are the differences between empirical and theoretical literature reviews?
Empirical literature reviews are undertaken to identify specific and concrete information. Researchers evaluate empirical studies and quantitative data thoroughly. A comprehensive empirical analysis is carried out to contextualise the specific research topic in the light of tangible evidence. Researchers identify the knowledge gaps in the empirical studies and highlight what aspects of a particular phenomenon were overlooked by previous researchers. Furthermore, researchers justify the rationale of their research and put forward their proposal that how the current research will address those knowledge gaps and what practical steps will be taken by the researcher to fill the empirical knowledge gap.
On the other hand, theoretical literature reviews are exploratory in nature and instead of drawing empirical inferences, theoretical research seeks to identify the conceptual gaps in the studies. These studies are exploratory in nature and identify the knowledge gaps by critically reviewing the existing theories and summarising the concepts. Researchers often conduct systematic literature reviews and identify the commonalities and differences in the existing theoretical concepts to provide a comparative perspective. These studies build the foundation for future research and suggest ways for empirical researchers on how to contextualise the empirical research in the light of the identified theoretical underpinnings.
A literature review is not just a summary of the existing research. Many people confuse literature review with summary writing however literature review entails critical evaluation and analysis. Students often face difficulties writing critical literature reviews in research and therefore if you need any help in writing literature reviews you can always take help from expert writers at Research Paper Help.
Theoretical literature reviews also pave the way for theory testing. A theory’s survival depends upon its explanatory power and falsifiability criteria. The hypothetical content of a theory is its primary attribute since it paves the way for testing. However, any established theory in science remains tentative until or unless a better explanation arises. Therefore, theoretical research reviews evaluate the explanatory power of the theory and identify its strengths and drawbacks. Empirical researchers test the theory and either refute it or accept it thus building a chain of continuity and knowledge progression.
What are the characteristics of empirical and theoretical research reviews?
Empirical literature reviews are an integral part of the research process because they help researchers systematically evaluate the literature and find answers to specific research questions. Empirical literature reviews are systematic and methodological reviews of the literature for extracting specific and reliable information. The following attributes distinguish empirical literature reviews:
Empiricism is characterized by a recurrent or focused examination of the data or events. In empirical studies, standardized research techniques and protocols are consistently used to address pertinent concerns.
The pursuit of empirical evidence is driven by the accumulation of information. Regardless of whether the findings support the researchers’ initial hypothesis, researchers of empirical studies are expected to record the data as it was observed. The information must be presented objectively, minimising causes of selection bias to the highest degree possible, to maintain research quality.
Empirical literature reviews record the facts in a manner that facilitates replication of the findings of previous studies by other researchers. Researchers can understand with clarity the overall empirical findings compiled from various studies and replicate them to enhance the transparency and replicability of the research. The findings of the original studies might be different however researchers can imitate the research methodologies used by other researchers and replicate the steps in their studies to address research questions.
Theoretical and empirical literature reviews are two different types of approaches used in research. The former builds the foundation for the latter and sometimes compels the researchers to investigate a theory in the light of empirical evidence. Empirical review helps researchers examine empirical literature, observe various findings, consistently identify the patterns, and report them objectively. The latter stage encompasses the identification of gaps and devising mechanisms for addressing the gaps.