Academic research thrives on the invaluable role of dissertations in enriching the body of knowledge across diverse fields. Amidst this landscape, dissertations can be broadly classified into two primary types: empirical and non-empirical. These types exhibit notable disparities in research methodologies, approaches, and the evidentiary foundations supporting their findings. Our aim is to conduct a comparative analysis that sheds light on the defining characteristics of empirical and non-empirical dissertations, while also exploring the factors that influence the choice between them.

Empirical Dissertations

Empirical dissertations center around the collection and analysis of data obtained through systematic observation or experimentation. They employ research methods that seek firsthand evidence to address research questions and test hypotheses. By embracing empirical methodologies, researchers aim to objectively investigate and comprehend phenomena within their natural contexts.

Empirical dissertations adopt a wide array of research approaches, including surveys, experiments, field studies, and quantitative data analysis. Surveys facilitate the acquisition of data from a large sample, thereby providing insights into attitudes, opinions, and behaviors. Experiments, on the other hand, enable researchers to manipulate variables and establish causal relationships. Field studies involve observing and analyzing phenomena in real-world settings, allowing for a comprehensive understanding and contextualization. Quantitative data analysis methods, such as statistical techniques, are frequently employed to examine patterns, relationships, and trends within datasets.

The process of data collection in empirical dissertations demands meticulous planning, ethical considerations, and the implementation of rigorous methodologies. Researchers employ strategies such as structured interviews, questionnaires, observations, and experimental procedures to obtain relevant data. Subsequently, the collected data undergoes systematic analysis, which may involve statistical analysis, qualitative coding, or thematic analysis. The interpretations are drawn from the evidence obtained, leading to informed conclusions and recommendations.

Empirical dissertations encompass a vast array of studies conducted across fields like psychology, sociology, biology, economics, and numerous others. For example, a psychologist might undertake an empirical dissertation to investigate the correlation between a specific therapeutic intervention and its effectiveness in alleviating symptoms of depression. In this scenario, the researcher would collect data through surveys or experiments to evaluate the intervention's impact and draw evidence-based conclusions.

Empirical dissertations provide researchers with an opportunity to contribute to existing knowledge by generating new data and empirical evidence. They facilitate the discovery of patterns, relationships, and trends in various phenomena, thereby expanding the understanding of the subject under investigation.

Comprehending the characteristics and methodologies employed in empirical dissertations enables researchers to appreciate the unique contributions they make to their respective fields. In the subsequent section, we will delve into non-empirical dissertations, highlighting their distinct features and methodologies.

Non-empirical Dissertations

When it comes to non-empirical dissertations, we enter a realm that diverges from the collection and analysis of data. Instead, these dissertations adopt an alternative approach, relying on existing literature, theories, and concepts to tackle research questions. The non-empirical category encompasses various types, such as literature reviews, theoretical frameworks, conceptual analyses, and case studies, each with its distinct characteristics and objectives.

Literature reviews manifest as comprehensive examinations of the existing body of literature on a specific topic. They involve synthesizing and analyzing published studies, books, and scholarly articles to discern gaps, trends, and debates within the field. The purpose of a literature review is to offer a critical overview of the current knowledge, highlight the limitations of previous research, and propose future avenues for investigation.

Theoretical frameworks, on the other hand, serve as the backbone of non-empirical dissertations, aiming to develop or refine conceptual models that explain phenomena within a specific field. These frameworks draw upon existing theories and concepts to construct a comprehensive and coherent understanding of the research topic at hand. Theoretical frameworks find particular utility in disciplines such as social sciences, humanities, and management, where the emphasis lies on theoretical contributions and conceptual advancements.

Conceptual analyses delve into the examination and critical analysis of concepts, ideas, or theories relevant to the research question. This type of non-empirical dissertation explores the meaning, scope, and implications of specific concepts within the context of the research topic. Conceptual analyses play a vital role in refining and developing theoretical frameworks by elucidating and expanding upon key concepts.

Case studies present yet another variant of non-empirical dissertations, entailing in-depth investigations into specific cases or instances. Researchers gather qualitative data through interviews, observations, or document analysis to grasp the intricacies of a particular phenomenon or context. Case studies offer detailed and context-specific insights into complex real-life situations, proving particularly valuable in disciplines such as business, law, and social sciences.

In the realm of non-empirical dissertations, researchers harness the power of existing knowledge, theories, and concepts to make significant contributions to their respective fields. By exploring the literature, constructing theoretical frameworks, conducting conceptual analyses, or delving into case studies, scholars expand the intellectual discourse and deepen our understanding of intricate subjects.

Learn more about more types of dissertations that exist.

Key Differences Between Empirical and Non-empirical Dissertations

When comparing empirical and non-empirical dissertations, several key differences emerge, including their research design, data collection methods, and the role of evidence. The following table outlines some of the primary distinctions:

Key Differences

    Empirical Dissertations

Non-empirical Dissertations

Research Design

Based on systematic observation or experimentation

Relies on existing literature, theories, and concepts

Data Collection

Primary data collection through surveys, experiments, or fieldwork

Secondary data collection through literature reviews, theoretical analyses, or case studies

Analysis Approach

Quantitative or qualitative data analysis

Critical analysis of existing literature or conceptual frameworks

Role of Evidence

Reliance on empirical evidence

Reliance on existing theories, concepts, and literature


Generation of new empirical data and evidence

Synthesis and critical analysis of existing knowledge


Experimental studies, surveys

Literature reviews, theoretical frameworks, case studies

These differences highlight the contrasting approaches used in empirical and non-empirical dissertations. Empirical dissertations focus on gathering firsthand data to test hypotheses and uncover new insights, while non-empirical dissertations rely on existing knowledge to provide a comprehensive analysis and synthesis of the research topic.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for researchers when determining the most appropriate approach for their dissertation, as it aligns with their research questions, objectives, and disciplinary norms. While empirical dissertations offer the advantage of producing new data, non-empirical dissertations contribute by critically evaluating and integrating existing knowledge.

In the next section, we will explore the factors that influence the choice between empirical and non-empirical dissertations and discuss the implications of this choice on the findings and contributions to knowledge.

Factors Influencing the Choice of Dissertation Type

The decision to pursue either an empirical or non-empirical dissertation is influenced by various factors. These factors encompass disciplinary considerations, the nature of the research topic, the availability of resources, and the research objectives. Understanding these influential factors is crucial for researchers in determining the most appropriate approach for their dissertation.

  1. Disciplinary Differences. Different academic disciplines have varying expectations and norms regarding the preferred type of dissertation. Some disciplines, such as natural sciences and psychology, often prioritize empirical research to gather empirical evidence and test hypotheses. In contrast, disciplines like philosophy or literature may lean towards non-empirical dissertations, emphasizing theoretical analysis and critical interpretation of existing knowledge.

  2. Research Topic. The nature of the research topic plays a significant role in determining the appropriate dissertation type. Some topics may lend themselves more naturally to empirical research, where data collection and analysis are essential for answering research questions or testing hypotheses. Conversely, topics that require theoretical exploration, conceptual development, or extensive literature analysis may be better suited for a non-empirical approach.

  3. Research Objectives. The research objectives play a pivotal role in determining the appropriate dissertation type, thereby influencing the entire research endeavor. When the aim is to generate novel empirical data or assess the efficacy of a specific intervention, an empirical dissertation emerges as the more fitting choice. Conversely, when the objective revolves around synthesizing existing knowledge, proposing theoretical frameworks, or critically analyzing concepts, a non-empirical dissertation becomes the preferred path.

  4. Resources and Time Constraints. Consideration must be given to the availability of resources, including funding, data accessibility, and research participants. Empirical dissertations often demand more resources, such as funding for data collection, access to research participants, and specialized equipment or software. On the other hand, non-empirical dissertations may necessitate extensive access to existing literature, databases, or theoretical frameworks.

  5. Personal Preferences and Skills. Researchers must also account for their own inclinations, proficiencies, and expertise when selecting between empirical and non-empirical dissertations. Some individuals may feel more at ease and adept in conducting empirical research, while others may excel in critical analysis, literature reviews, or theoretical development. Aligning the chosen approach with personal strengths can enhance the quality and efficiency of the dissertation process.

It is noteworthy that the choice between empirical and non-empirical dissertations is not always an exclusive one. In certain cases, a hybrid approach that combines elements of both empirical and non-empirical research methods may prove suitable for effectively addressing the research questions at hand.

Researchers ought to meticulously evaluate these factors and carefully weigh the advantages and limitations inherent in each dissertation type. Such a thorough assessment ensures that the chosen approach aligns harmoniously with the research objectives, available resources, and disciplinary expectations. By making informed decisions, researchers can maximize the quality and impact of their dissertation work.

In the subsequent section, we shall delve into how the choice of dissertation type can exert influence on the findings and contributions to knowledge in both empirical and non-empirical research.

Impact on Findings and Contributions to Knowledge

When it comes to the impact on findings and contributions to knowledge, the choice between empirical and non-empirical dissertations holds great significance. Each type offers unique advantages and contributes to the advancement of research in its own distinct manner.

Empirical dissertations, characterized by their rigorous data collection and analysis, yield new empirical evidence. This evidence empowers researchers to test hypotheses, identify patterns, establish cause-and-effect relationships, and draw evidence-based conclusions. By generating fresh data, empirical dissertations expand the realm of knowledge and deepen the understanding of specific phenomena. The findings of empirical dissertations often have direct implications for practical applications, informing evidence-based decision-making.

Conversely, non-empirical dissertations contribute by synthesizing and critically analyzing existing knowledge. Literature reviews, theoretical frameworks, and conceptual analyses provide comprehensive overviews of the current state of research, highlighting gaps, limitations, and avenues for further investigation. Non-empirical dissertations facilitate the integration of diverse perspectives, theories, and concepts, bolstering the theoretical foundations of a field. They contribute to the development of conceptual frameworks, bring clarity to key concepts, and offer novel interpretations or theoretical insights. Furthermore, non-empirical dissertations play a crucial role in shaping research agendas and guiding future empirical studies.

The choice between empirical and non-empirical dissertations should be guided by the research objectives and the nature of the research topic at hand. By selecting the appropriate type, researchers can maximize the relevance and impact of their findings, thereby making significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge within their respective fields.


What are the primary types of dissertations?

The primary types of dissertations are empirical and non-empirical.

What are empirical dissertations?

Empirical dissertations involve the collection and analysis of data obtained through systematic observation or experimentation. Researchers use empirical methodologies to investigate phenomena within their natural contexts and address research questions.

What research approaches are commonly used in empirical dissertations?

Empirical dissertations employ various research approaches, including surveys, experiments, field studies, and quantitative data analysis. These approaches facilitate data collection, manipulation of variables, observation, and analysis of real-world phenomena, and examination of patterns and relationships within datasets.

What are non-empirical dissertations?

Non-empirical dissertations rely on existing literature, theories, and concepts to explore research questions. They encompass types such as literature reviews, theoretical frameworks, conceptual analyses, and case studies.

What factors influence the choice between empirical and non-empirical dissertations?

The choice between empirical and non-empirical dissertations is influenced by factors such as disciplinary considerations, the nature of the research topic, research objectives, available resources, and the personal preferences and skills of the researcher. A thorough evaluation of these factors ensures the selection of the most appropriate approach for the dissertation. 


In wrapping up, it is evident that empirical and non-empirical dissertations offer divergent avenues for research and make distinct contributions to knowledge. Empirical dissertations center on gathering and analyzing primary data, enabling researchers to generate fresh empirical evidence and draw conclusions grounded in evidence. On the other hand, non-empirical dissertations rely on existing literature, theories, and concepts to provide critical analyses, synthesize knowledge, and advance theoretical frameworks.

The choice between empirical and non-empirical dissertations hinges on several factors, encompassing disciplinary variances, the research topic, research objectives, available resources, and personal preferences. Researchers must thoughtfully assess these factors to ensure that their chosen approach aligns with their research goals and optimizes the caliber and impact of their dissertation work.

By comprehending the distinctions between empirical and non-empirical dissertations, researchers can make informed decisions that effectively contribute to the body of knowledge within their respective fields. Both types of dissertations possess unique strengths and fulfill critical roles in advancing research, ultimately fostering intellectual growth and spurring innovation.

Through a comparative analysis of empirical and non-empirical dissertations, researchers can navigate the intricacies of research methodology and select the most fitting approach to address their research questions. By embracing the diversity of research methods, we collectively broaden our understanding, challenge existing paradigms, and propel innovation in academic research.