Examples of empirical research include measuring the levels of noise pollution found in an urban area to determine the average levels of sound exposure experienced by its inhabitants. Another example is the use of carbon dating to determine the age of an artifact believed to be produced by an ancient civilization. Measuring the amount of lead found in the drinking water of a small town is another instance of empirical research. These instances of empirical research use different types of observation methods though they all seek to produce knowledge as a result.
While the term generally refers to contemporary scientific practice, its usage can be traced to the ancient Greeks who distinguished empiricism from the pure dogmatism practiced by many of the philosophers of their day. Today, empirical research, as one part of the scientific method, is a practice conducted by disciplines ranging from sociology to quantum physics to marine biology.