How Is a Lawyer Like a Ph.D. Candidate?

The whole point of an academic dissertation is to take all the steps that a trial attorney goes through in preparing a court case. According to writer and editor Sabrina Collier, the author will define a question, pinpoint the issues, and assess the legitimacy and reliability of relevant information, which of course must be meticulously sourced. Then the evidence on every side should be evaluated, and a competent argument made, which leads to the conclusion. The only difference is, the dissertation-writing student (rather than the legal system) proposes the original question.

Almost 10 years ago, by submitting a dissertation, Janna Stephens of Johns Hopkins University claimed the right to place the letters Ph.D. after her name. The question that interested this student was whether technology, in the form of smartphone applications and text messaging, could provide successful platforms for the delivery, to young adults affected with obesity, of needed behavioral interventions. It was partly answered by analyzing the results of a weight loss study of subjects whose ages ranged from 18 to 25.

Results: Participants randomized to the intervention group lost significantly more weight (p=0.026), significantly reduced their body mass index (p<0.01), and significantly reduced their waist circumference (p<0.01) when compared to participants in the control group.

The participants confirmed that using the tools provided by a smartphone, along with text messaging, interested them greatly. The ability to integrate this technology into their lives was not even in question, but was proven anyway. In the realm of behavioral intervention, this concept went straight to the top.

Multiple studies have reported significant weight loss, reduced BMI, reduced fat mass, and increased physical activity in participants using Smartphone technology versus those who were not.

Between 2005 and 2010, studies of smartphone applications seem to have been centered around the cardiovascular risk factors posed by overweight, obesity, and inactivity.

The author also gleaned information from other timely studies. In one, the researchers noted that “the individual who accessed the application the most, lost the most weight.” Strangely, very few studies had focused solely on the young adult demographic, a particularly egregious omission considering such factors as the tendency of college students to gain the pounds known as the “freshman fifteen.” Stephens also noted a dearth of evidence about how effective mobile phone technology might be on elderly people or young children.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What is a dissertation?,”, 06/01/23
Source: “Smartphone Technology and Text Messaging to Promote Weight Loss in Young Adults,”, July 2015
Image by Karen Neoh/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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