APA PsycInfo has a search filter called "Methodology" that is very useful in limiting your results to studies that use empirical research methodologies.
On the search form, it is at the lower right of the filter check boxes.
In other databases, such as Web of Science and Google Scholar, here are some tips:
- The phrase study AND (goals OR objectives) are words that are often used in articles that use an empirical methodology (the word "empirical" is almost never used by authors to describe their study.) This will narrow the search to the likely right kind of article. If you have a specific methodology, such as "quantitative study" or "qualitative study", add that with an AND before it.
- The phrase (goals OR objectives) is the way to enter similar words together so that they are searched first as a set before the search is narrowed by any use of AND. So, this search will find any articles that have the words goals or objectives, but, then, only those that also have the word "study" and also the words, for example, the topic "delayed sleep phase"
- Quotation marks around the topic phrase, for example, "delayed sleep phase", should cause the search to find the exact phrase rather than any of the individual words in the phrase.