Formulating Project Rationale: Pitching

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It is important to have a clear understanding of the purpose and significance of your work in order to maximize the impact of your research. It’s also important to share this purpose and significance with others so that they can help you realize this impact, either through collaborations or funding opportunities. Focusing on the key concepts in your project rationale and understanding their connections can help increase your own understanding of the project and make this project more accessible for others. One way to effectively develop and refine your thinking of your project rationale is to explain it to a broad audience. Frequently pitching your project concept to different audiences is a useful way to develop a clear articulation of your core project concept and the value of your research. Finding many opportunities to speak about your research to different audiences will also increase your confidence and allow you to iterate and improve the clarity and persuasiveness of your messaging.  

The activities below will guide you to… 

  • Consider the important elements of an effective ‘elevator pitch’.  
  • Formulate and practice delivering a three-minute pitch of your thesis project concept. 

Important Concepts 

Elevator pitch: a short speech that describes/summarizes what you do. It should be succinct, clear, and easy for someone else to understand. 

An effective elevator pitch for your research project will have: 

  •  a clear story with a beginning, middle and end 
  • an explanation of your research that is understandable to an audience from various backgrounds 
  • a clear sense of who the speaker is by the end 

Suggested Activities – How accessible is this pitch? 

Estimated time: 30 minutes  

  1. Look at the example pitches provided at the end of this module. Were you able to understand the overall outline and significance of the project adequately from these half-page summaries? 
  2. Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competitions provide excellent examples for creating compelling research pitches. See the link in Resource 1 to watch Richard Kil’s winning pitch from the 2017 U of T 3MT competition. What made his presentation so compelling to watch? 

Suggested Activity – Preparing a Three-Minute Pitch 

Estimated time: 1 hour 

  1. Create a project rationale outline (see outlining module). Consider how this content could be developed into a compelling pitch. What are the key points that you would need to convey to an audience? How would you communicate them in an accessible, clear, and succinct way? 
  2. Write a one-liner or hook that gives a high-level description of your research project in one sentence.  
  3. Write a half-page script for a three-minute pitch about your thesis project, paying attention to the considerations listed in step 1. Refer back to the examples in the previous suggested activity for examples of one-liners and pitch scripts. 
  4. Set a timer for three minutes and practice reading and delivering your speech out loud.  
  5. Reflect on your pitch. Were you able to convey your message clearly within the allotted time? Did you cover all the important points needed to adequately convey the purpose of your project at a level that could be understood by a broad audience? Are there any gaps in your flow of logic that may confuse someone who is unfamiliar with your work? 

Next Steps… 

  • Find an opportunity to share your three-minute pitch with a peer, friend, or relative. Push yourself to scrap the script and deliver it extemporaneously. Do they have any feedback on content, clarity, or delivery that you could incorporate to improve your pitch in the future? 
  • Did the process of creating the pitch clarify your understanding of your project? 
  • Consider how you could adapt your pitch to a real ‘elevator pitch’ situation. How would you tighten up your message to deliver it in only one minute?  

Activity Examples

Sample Half-Page Research Pitches
Research Pitch ExamplesSample research pitches.


Developing an Effective Pitch
1 Video of a three-minute thesis – Richard Kil’s winning presentation at the 2017 U of T 3MT competition about using baker’s yeast to screen for disease in the developing world. (3 min)
2Graduate Professional Development 14: Three Minute Thesis TipsVideo providing tips for constructing and delivering a three-minute thesis. (~5 min)