I like the conversation going on here and would like to chime in.
I agree that all research is empirical thought I disagree that theoretical research does not add value. I’m strictly talking about academic/scientific and peer reviewed research.
Empirical research gathers data, conducts experiments, presents results, etc. Theoretical research attempts to answer questions about, for instance, who we are (i.e., Chickering’s identity development theory) or how we think or act (i.e., Perry’s intellectual/ethical development theory). These are aimed to explain why people are the way they are, believe what they believe, how they interpret themselves and the world, and how the world operates etc. Theoretical frameworks build theories about information that we already have knowledge about, and use empirical research to build their argument or thesis to prove the theory. Of course in any research, whether empirical or theoretical, we need to consider the validity.
Social sciences tend to lean toward theoretical research while medicine and technology conduct empirical research. It makes sense in those fields. I think they’re both valuable given the appropriate context (i.e., a psychologist using theoretical research to understand why people do what they do vs. a doctor who conducts empirical research on the relationship between smoking and lung cancer).