Introduction to Pitching Research

What is Pitching Research?

Pitching Research is a template tool, developed by Professor Robert Faff from the UQ Business School, designed to help exchange ideas between novice researchers and their academic advisors.  It is a great resource to be used across a wide range of  research areas and for diverse levels of research training and mastery.

The main purpose of any research proposal is to demonstrate to the reader that:

  • the problem to be investigated is of significance
  • the planned method is appropriate
  • the results will likely make a novel contribution to existing literature.

It is important that the “creator” is able to credibly and meaningfully convince the experts of what he/she is trying to achieve, which can be a daunting prospect for students and novice researchers. Even more daunting when one realises that mentors are time poor, over-committed and often “grumpy”.

The ‘PR’ tool allows students to provide core specifics of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and to “hint” at how they might have the competency and capability to carry it out.

Faff’s approach breaks down this information into a structured and integrated framework. The two-page (1,000 word) pitching template begins with research ‘preliminary’ information that acts to “position” your research: working title, research question, key papers and motivation for the study. Following this, the ‘3-2-1’ countdown represents the core of the template, namely:

  • THREE (3) “building blocks “– idea, data tools;
  • TWO (2) questions – ‘What’s new?’ And ‘So what?’;
  • ONE bottom line for the proposed study – its contribution.

The major benefit of this condensed and structured template tool is that it allows academics, professors and program co-ordinators to ‘ease in’ their students to the complexities of developing, writing and interpreting scholarly research – an effective way to “start the conversation”.

The tool was designed to help streamline the Mentor-Novice Researcher relationship – more specifically, to:

  • help “start a conversation”;
  • help reduce the “I’m lost” feeling of novice researchers;
  • help reduce the common mistake of “over investing” too quickly in an (bad) idea.
  • help research mentors take “control” early, while allowing flexibility dealing with diverse student abilities/enthusiasm/independence.

PR Template Guide

Pitcher’s Name Your name here FoR category Field of Research Date Completed Insert date here
(A) Working Title Succinct/informative title here
(B) Basic Research Question IN one sentence, define the key features of the research question.
(C) Key paper(s) Identify the key paper(s) which most critically underpin the topic (just standard reference details). Ideally one paper, but at most 3 papers. Ideally, by “gurus” in the field, either recently published in Tier 1 journal(s) or recent working paper e.g. on SSRN.
(D) Motivation/Puzzle IN one short paragraph (say a max of 100 words) capture the core academic motivation – which may include identifying a “puzzle” that you hope to resolve.
THREE Three core aspects of any empirical research project i.e. the “IDioTs” guide
(E) Idea? Identify the “core” idea that drives the intellectual content of this research topic. If possible, articulate the central hypothesis(es). Identify the key dependent (“explained”) variable and the key test/independent (“explanatory”) variable(s). Is there any serious threat from endogeneity here? If so, what is the identification strategy? Is there a natural experiment or exogenous shock that can be exploited? Is there any theoretical “tension” that can be exploited?
(F) Data?
  1. What data do you propose to use? e.g. country/setting; Why? Unit of analysis? Individuals, firms, portfolios, industries, countries …? sample period; sampling interval? Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual, … Type of data: firm specific vs. industry vs. macro vs. …?
  2. What sample size do you expect? Cross-sectionally? In Time-series/longitudinal?
  3. Is it a panel dataset?
  4. Data Sources? Are the data commercially available? Any hand-collecting required? Are the data to be created based on your own survey instrument? Or by interviews? Timeframe? Research assistance needed? Funding/grants? Are they novel new data?
  5. Will there be any problem with missing data/observations? Database merge issues? Data manipulation/”cleansing” issues?
  6. Will your “test” variables exhibit adequate (“meaningful”) variation to give good power? Quality/reliability of data?
  7. Other data obstacles? E.g. external validity? construct validity?
(G) Tools? Basic empirical framework and research design? Is it a regression model approach? Survey instrument issues/design? Interview design? Econometric software needed/appropriate for job? Accessible through normal channels? Knowledge of implementation of appropriate or best statistical/econometric tests? Compatibility of data with planned empirical framework? Is statistical validity an issue?
TWO Two key questions
(H) What’s New? Is the novelty in the idea/data/tools? Which is the “driver”, and are the “passengers” likely to pull their weight? Is this “Mickey Mouse” [i.e. can you draw a simple Venn diagram to depict the novelty in your proposal?]
(I) So What? Why is it important to know the answer? How will major decisions/behaviour/activity etc be influenced by the outcome of this research?
ONE One bottom line
(J) Contribution? What is the primary source of the contribution to the relevant research literature?
(K) Other Considerations Is Collaboration needed/desirable? – idea/data/tools? (either internal or external to your institution)

Target Journal(s)? Realistic? Sufficiently ambitious?

Risk” assessment [“low” vs. “moderate” vs. “high”: “no result” risk; “competitor” risk (ie being beaten by a competitor); risk of “obsolescence”; other risks? Are there any serious challenge(s) that you face in executing this plan? What are they? Are they related to the Idea? The Data? The Tools? Are there ethical considerations? Ethics clearance?

Is the scope appropriate? Not too narrow, not too broad.

Template from Faff, Robert W., “Pitching Research” (2017). Available at SSRN:

How-To video

In this video, the ‘Pitch Doctor’ breaks down the template section-by-section with a ‘How-To’ explanation, providing recommendations for best practices.