How to Research Like a PhD and Improve Your Nutritional Advice Doing It

As we all know, the internet is the veritable wild west of information, and with well over one billion websites out there, it may be challenging to know where to go for credible resources.

Many of us have experienced fake news, health fads, and even biased misinformation disguised as academic articles. With the science of nutrition progressing at the speed of light, knowing how and where to find credible research is essential to a successful practice.

Moreover, the risk of giving out less than credible advice to your clients can pose a considerable threat not just to their health but also to your reputation as a health or wellness professional.

Equipping yourself with PhD-level research skills can help you mitigate this risk and advance your career in the right way.

In this article, we have curated fundamental components for upping your research game so you can get started with setting yourself apart in the health and nutrition landscape.

Let’s explore them below.

Be very clear on the information you’re looking for.

The first step in great research is knowing what you’re researching in the first place!

Ask yourself:

  • What problem will this information solve?
  • Have I formed a potential hypothesis?
  • What information do I need to access the information I’m looking for? (i.e., to learn why some people have trouble losing weight with hormonal disorders, you would need to first study hormones and their impact on the body.)
  • What is the goal of this research? (The endgame)

Researching for personal interest reasons is a great way to stay at the top of your game. However, when researching a specific subject for your clients or to solve a particular problem, you’ll need to pinpoint the nature and amount of information necessary to arrive at an accurate conclusion.

The better you understand what you’re looking for with your research, the more likely you are to find it. This will also help guide your efforts and direct you towards the right resources.

Once you know what you’re looking for, you can form a hypothesis based on your assumptions. A hypothesis is an idea or supposition that provides you with a starting point for your research. Once formed, you will test this by gathering relevant information.

Understand the difference between evidence and opinion.

As strange as it sounds, far too many people confuse opinion with fact. They will lean on unsubstantiated rumours, beliefs, or correlations in an attempt to further a biased viewpoint.

Real facts will come in both objective and subjective forms. Objective facts are absolute concrete truths that can be proven via the senses. They are not debatable on a scientific level. Subjective facts are based on credible opinions created using logical and reasonable assumptions.

Subjective facts can still be challenged but are often backed by objective facts and diverse supporting evidence.

Opinions are simply beliefs created by individuals that are subject to bias and can often be refuted. Saying, “the banana diet is the best,” is driven by internal preferences and not applicable in a scientific or objective way.

In all things related to research, facts are what will make or break your hypothesis. This is especially true when dealing with scientifically centred subjects like health and nutrition.

Look in the right places.

A quick Google search isn’t going to yield credible results. Instead, you need to take it a step further. Recognise that the best place to do scientific research will be in peer reviewed, academic journals. College libraries, ScienceDirect, and even Pub Med can all provide you with a great place to start.

Academic books and hardcopy peer reviewed materials can also be valuable sources of information. Although, it’s a good rule of thumb (especially when dealing with evolving science) to start your searches to materials produced within the last 1-2 years.

Once you’ve compiled the information you need, it’s time to see how your hypothesis holds up to factual resources. This is important to the learning process and will help you to create new knowledge that’s relevant to your field.

Double and triple check your findings!

A hypothesis means nothing if the results can’t be replicated! And the same holds true for any research that you do.

Double and triple check the information you find against other credible resources. Verify that the results you’ve found aren’t just an outlier or one off, and that they are replicable (for you AND your clients).

Many nutrition professionals are lifelong learners (the field almost demands it). So, develop a research process and cadence that works for you – and that adds real value to your business.

Your Next steps…

There’s so much more to the research process and its methodologies! Fortunately, you can dive deeper into the process of doctoral-level research with our Level 6 Advanced Research Techniques certification.

Discover doctorate-level research techniques from our in-house researchers themselves, the truth behind headlines, and even step by step guidelines for making sense of scientific studies, interpreting them, choosing the ones you need and then putting them into context!

This Level 6 certification will show you how to make sense of research like our own PhDs, step by step:

STEP 1. You will know how to find research that is relevant to your client
STEP 2. You will be able to confidently read and analyse scientific papers
STEP 3. You will efficiently evaluate the reliability of a source
STEP 4. You will understand how investigate headlines and when to debunk them


Want to start exploring this certification and others without paying immediately? We have made this possible via the Academic Tour brought to you by The Health Sciences Academy!

The Academic tour affords you a smarter and more efficient way of navigating the world of nutrition science, giving you all that you need to launch or grow your nutrition career in one place!

Enjoy FREE access to a couple of modules in all our evidence-based certifications when you take the Academic Tour, PLUS… access to complete available free courses, take a Career Strategy Assessment, book a FREE Nutrition Career Review, claim an optional CPD certificate for 5 CPD hours, and much more!

Go here to start the Academic Tour now!


Also, do you want to learn how to apply doctoral-level research techniques that will change how you approach fact-finding and reduce your chances of choosing the wrong resource?

Join UCL Doctoral Researcher and Chief Science Educator at The Health Sciences Academy, Alex Ruani, for a special live CPD certified webinar this Friday, 3 September 2021, at 4:00 PM (UK time) as she discusses the Principles of Research Techniques for Your Nutrition Practice.

Go here to save your seat now!

See Also

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  • Why nutrition and health practitioners should gain a deep insight into lifestyle medicine when working with clients
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  • How integrating lifestyle medicine into your programs can help clients better manage ongoing symptoms and optimise wellbeing
  • Advantages of attaining the Fundamentals of Anatomy, Pathophysiology, and Lifestyle Medicine™ Level 5 Certification
  • What lifestyle medicine practice looks like – and how it works within and outside medical settings

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