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SWK 304: Perspectives on SWK Research I

Filling in your matrix

Once you have found 5 empirical articles, you will need to identify the following in each one in order to complete your matrix assignment:

  • Author
  • Article title
  • Sample size
  • Sampling method
  • Data collection method & data source
  • Research question(s) or hypothesis(es)
  • Research design type
  • Major findings

Some information is always easy to find (author, article title). Other aspects are not always clearly stated. Reading carefully as described below will help you break down each article to identify each of the content items listed above.

Reading an Empirical Article

An empirical article will consistently contain the following sections, though individual authors may use different words to describe them. Some section names may change slightly, e.g. Methods might be Research Methods or Methodology. If you don’t find this information in a journal article, then it isn't an empirical article:


Summary of the key points of the article: the purpose of the study and a hypothesis, the methodology used, who was studied, and the findings. Read this first, but don’t rely on it solely to draw conclusions about the study.


Contains a survey of the relevant background for a study, a context for the study, and the hypothesis (i.e. the specific predictions to be tested). It will also usually contain a review of prior studies related to the same topic.


Describes the approach taken in the study. This section provides detailed information about the study design, research instrument used, (e.g. questionnaire), subjects (e.g. women between the ages of 50 and 70), procedures, and the approach to data analysis.


Data is summarized in this section, and relationships among variables and/or differences among groups are reported. These analyses should directly reflect the predictions originally described in the Introduction. Further comparisons may also be included to clarify findings or to explore unanticipated findings.


Results are summarized in narrative form as opposed to statistics or numbers. The ways in which the study’s results coincide with the hypothesis and previous studies will also be discussed, as well as suggestions for the need for further studies on the topic.


Listing of the sources cited in the article such as books and articles, as well as sources not directly used but relevant to the topic.

NOTE: Use the Reference list to find more articles about your topic!

Now read the article. Break it down if the content is confusing!

  1. Start with the Abstract for an overview.
  2. Read the first paragraph or so of the Introduction to get a sense of the issue. The hypothesis or research question usually appears near the end of the introduction. Sometimes it is explicitly labeled, sometimes not.
  3. Skim the Discussion to see how the study turned out.
  4. Now, go back to the middle part for the details. Read the Methods section carefully. You will need to reread it, often a couple of times, to digest it all.
  5. Then, read the Results section. You may want to turn to the Discussion section for clarification of what the reported statistics demonstrate. 
  6. Read the Discussion section more closely.
  7. Finally, read the whole article, first page to last page. Reread for the greatest comprehension.