On the Art of Pitching your Accounting Research

Posted by Robert Faff - Sep 03, 2018

 In this blog post I link Kinney’s famous 3 paragraphs, pitching research and the “elevator pitch”. The post builds on my earlier posts on the EAA ARC:

* ““Pitching Research” to an accounting academic expert – a difficult task made easier”:  https://bit.ly/2NqpKTR

* ***ACCOUNTING ROOKIE ALERT*** How to Pitch your Job Market Paper!:



(1) How would I Pitch my Research to an Expert in the Field?

The simple answer is to follow the advice in Faff (2015, 2018). More specifically, Faff (2015, 2018) creates and develops a methodical approach to pitching a new research proposal. With a 1,000 word/2-page (8-10 minutes) limit, the simple template tool is designed to be simple, structured, methodical, clear and focused – in a way that allows a novice researcher in virtually any academic discipline to identify the core elements of a viable and worthwhile empirical research proposal. The template is built around a “4-3-2-1 + 1” countdown design.

Four represents the four “framing” items that begin the template: Working Title, Key Research Question, Key Papers, Motivation/Puzzle – collectively, these four pieces serve to give broad context to what then follows as more “specific” project-based information. 

Three represents the essential “building blocks” of Idea, Data and Tools.

Two represents the two basic questions a researcher has to convincingly answer: “What’s new?” and “So what?”

One represents the “holy grail” Contribution!

+1 is for “other considerations” like: the target journal, deal breakers, ethics and collaboration.


(2) A Pitching Hierarchy

But, some would say, 1,000 words is “too much rope” – too early in the research journey. Can we pare it back even further?

Yes, we can!

The diagram below suggests a simple 3-dimensional “pitching” hierarchy: starting with an elevator pitch, then Kinney’s 3 paragraphs and finally Faff’s (2015, 2018) “Pitching Research” framework. Depending on the research context, the objective of the research pitch and where you are in the research journey, any of these types of pitch might have value.

The most extreme, “bare bones” pitch is the “elevator pitch” – you can say whatever you like, as long as it takes no longer than 30 seconds (i.e. the time it takes an elevator to ascend a very tall skyscraper). Super short, oral only, no structure and no detail. For the elevator pitch there is very limited prospect of detailed, meaningful feedback – just a “yes” or a “no”. Arguably, this lightening form of pitch will have only limited value in many academic research contexts.

The “Kinney 3 paragraphs” pose three basic questions: what?, why? how?: (a) what is your question (conceptually); (b) why is it important? (c) how will you find out (operationally)? Undoubtedly, for many years (either directly or indirectly) numerous accounting scholars have benefited from the “3 para” Kinney approach. Indeed, at this year’s 2018 The PhD Project Accounting Doctoral Student Association Conference (National Harbor) I had the great pleasure of being a “Shark Tank” panellist watching 3 students use the Kinney 3 paragraph approach to pitch their research in 5 minutes.

Five minutes is much more reasonable than the elevator style! Moreover, critically now a written component is key – though it seems the limit is about 250 words – that which can fit comfortably on ONE PAGE, double-spaced, 12 point font and normal margins. The 3-dimensional structure is very helpful to the novice researcher. Now there is a very reasonable chance of gaining some meaningful feedback from an expert – at least on 2 or 3 key points in a very short space of time (say in 15-20 minutes of “conversation”).

Finally, Faff’s (2015, 2018) “Pitching Research” framework provides a third-stage pitching approach e.g. that could be applied to an idea that safely negotiates the Kinney’s 3 paragraph challenge. Having a “4-3-2-1 +1” design, Faff’s (2015, 2018) “Pitching Research” framework sub-pitch components are: (4) 4-dimensional “big picture” pitch [Working Title/Research Question/Key Papers/Motivation]; (3) 3-dimensional “building blocks” [“IDioT”] pitch [Idea/Data/Tools]; (2) 2-dimensional “key questions” pitch [What’s New?/ So What?]; (1) 1-bottom line CONTRIBUTION pitch. +1, “other considerations”.

The full pitching research allows 2 pages/ 1,000 words/ 8-10 minutes. Now there is a very good chance of gaining much meaningful feedback from an expert – in a reasonably short space of time (say in 30 minutes of “conversation”).


 (3) Articulation between Kinney 3 Paras and Faff (2015, 2018) Pitching Research Framework

It is instructive to map out how Kinney’s 3 paragraphs can articulate into the “4-3-2-1 +1” design of Faff’s (2015, 2018) “Pitching Research” framework. The diagram in the file attached to this blog post neatly displays such articulation.As depicted in the diagram:

  • Kinney’s What? question naturally articulates with (a) Working Title; (b) Key Research Question and (c) the conceptual part of the Idea in Faff’s (2015, 2018) “Pitching Research” framework.
  • At the “BIG picture-level”, Kinney’s Why? question naturally articulates with (a) 3 Key Papers; and (b) Motivation/Puzzle in Faff’s (2015, 2018) “Pitching Research” framework.
  • At the “Project Specific-level”, Kinney’s Why? question naturally articulates with (a) What’s new?; (b) So What? and (c) Contribution in Faff’s (2015, 2018) “Pitching Research” framework.
  • Kinney’s How? question naturally articulates with (a) Idea; (b) Data and (c) Tools in Faff’s (2015, 2018) “Pitching Research” framework.

Additionally, Faff’s (2015, 2018) “Pitching Research” framework challenges the researcher to think of “other considerations” like: the target journal, deal breakers, ethics and collaboration.