By Erik Choi, Peer Research Ambassador
How many times have you been faced with the question, “what do you research?” or asked to tell someone about your research? These can be daunting questions. Do you give them the full-length response just to witness the puzzlement on their face as they get lost in the jargon of your research? Or do you give them an oversimplification that doesn’t do justice to the nuances of your work? It’s a tough conundrum that illustrates how research can be a double-edged sword: its incredible versatility gives it interdisciplinary breadth that simultaneously makes it difficult for an individual to be an expert in all areas of research.
The ability to talk about your research in a succinct but informative way is an integral part of being an undergraduate researcher. This is where the research elevator pitch is important. Your research elevator pitch should be a 30-second to 2-minute debrief of your work that encompasses the workings and importance of your research. It explains what you study and contextualizes its greater relevance to others outside of your niche. It doesn’t need to be memorized; in fact, you should be ready to tailor your pitch to your audience. It is more so a general blueprint you can follow when you need to talk about your research.
Your elevator pitch should follow an hourglass shape: starting broad, narrowing down into your research, then slowly expanding outwards again to the greater context. Here are the components to keep in mind when preparing your pitch:
- A broad introduction
Your introduction should be a general framing of your research question. If you were to zoom out from your area of study, where does your work fit in within the bigger picture? Your introduction could briefly include past attempts to answer the research question as well if you believe your audience would find it helpful.
- Your research
This is when you talk about your research: the general methodology you use, what data you collect and measure, and what you hypothesize. In this section, it’s easy to lose your audience by using language foreign to those unfamiliar with your work. You must be cognizant of breaking down your work into the essential components. When talking about methodology, emphasize why you do everything the way you do. What do your specific methods help you understand? Why collect and analyze this data? How can the data contribute to your conclusions?
- The context of your research
This is the crux of your elevator pitch. It’s where you explain how your research helps answer the initial question posed in your introduction. What are the implications of your potential findings? How can your work build upon previous research conducted? How can your research affect the average person or a certain group? This section is crucial because it bridges the gap between what you study and the experiences of laypeople. It helps your audience understand why your research is important.
The elevator pitch’s utility goes beyond the family dinner table. The ability to summarize your research in a concise and understandable manner can serve you at poster presentations, conferences, conversations with professionals, and among your peers. Communication is a pillar of research. Honing your elevator pitch provides you with a great tool that ultimately makes you a more effective communicator of your research.
Erik is a senior majoring in Physiology & Neurobiology and Economics. Click here to learn more about Erik.