How to Explain Family Science to Anyone
When someone asks you "What is Family Science?" how can you answer so they truly understand how Family Science is unique and why it matters?
Use an elevator pitch — the idea of persuasively introducing a concept during a short elevator ride. An elevator pitch is concise, easy to understand, and memorable to your audience.
Review NCFR's full guide, How to Explain Family Science to Anyone (PDF), or download individual components of the guide:
- Steps & Examples — Learn 5 easy steps to craft your pitch, with example text for longer and shorter versions
- Frequently Asked Questions — Get ideas for responding to follow-up questions about Family Science and explaining Family Science to specialized audiences
- More Information & Resources — Find different approaches to an elevator pitch, more Family Science background, and guidance for promoting Family Science to the public
Otherwise, keep reading for an introduction to the basics!
Learn how one faculty member used this guide for a classroom activity and assignment, and how the guide also helped educate their university's career services staff about Family Science in the process. Read the Case Study >>
Follow These Steps to Craft Your Pitch
- Define It. Open with a basic description of Family Science. The definition is great to draw from: "Family Science is the scientific study of families and close interpersonal relationships." Mentioning that it's a social science can help.
- Develop It. In 1–2 sentences, expand on how Family Science is unique and important.
- Illustrate It. Give a real-life example of how Family Science addresses a need or solves a problem. Use your work or something your audience cares about.
- Contrast It. Address how other disciplines approach your example. Consider what your audience already knows about other areas as a reference point.
- Affirm It. Make one more big-picture point about why Family Science matters. You could address why it's important to focus specifically on families.
Short on time? Focus on steps 1 and 3. Give a brief description and real-world example.
Examples for Talking to Lay Audiences (the Public)
Family Science is the study of families. It's a social science.
Family Science focuses on understanding relationships and interactions among family members, in all types of families. Knowing how to have healthy family relationships can help families to function better.
Example A: Referencing your future career: For instance, I’m interested in a career providing parenting education, working with parents to increase their parenting knowledge and skills.
One thing Family Science helps us understand is how conflicts affect relationships between parents and children, and how to handle those conflicts effectively. Imagine your teenager misses their curfew. Yelling at them without hearing their thoughts could make the conflict worse or create difficulties in your family. But if you can listen to each other without interrupting as you talk about why they were late, it could help you become closer.
Example B: Explaining your research topic: For example, my research focuses on the impact of having an open or closed adoption, meaning whether the family knows or is in contact with the birth parent(s).
I look at the interactions among family members — among the parent(s) and child, child and birth parent(s), parents and birth parents — and how those relationships affect the family as a whole. Research findings can be used in adoption education materials for adoptive parents and birth parents, so they understand more about how to interact and communicate in a healthy way.
Other social sciences might study how an individual deals with a conflict, or how society influences conflict resolution. But Family Science looks specifically within families at the crucial element of relationships among family members.
Our families often have a bigger influence on our lives than anyone else. That’s why Family Science is so important.
Shorter Version: Family Science is the study of families. It helps us understand the unique interactions and relationships family members have. For example, I research the impact of having an open or closed adoption. I look at the interactions among family members and how their relationships affect the whole family. We can use these findings in adoption education materials to help adoptive parents and birth parents.
Tips for a Successful Pitch
- An elevator pitch should be:
- Easy to understand
- Concise — 90 seconds or 200 words at most
- Conversational in tone
- Interesting and memorable
- Targeted to your audience's interests
- Tailor to each audience you encounter. You want them on board.
- Your illustration is key. People are 22 times more likely to remember facts told in a story.
- Adapt to fit your major/identity. If your major is HDFS, you can add a human development element to this core Family Science information.
- Don't worry about a perfect first draft — you can edit it down.
- Practice! But avoid a robotic speaking style.
More Information & Resources
Different Approaches to the Elevator Pitch
Over time, you might need elevator pitches for different purposes — for instance, pitching yourself and/or your work during a networking event or at a job interview.
Many sources provide advice for approaching an elevator pitch in different ways. Here are just a few:
- American Psychological Association: "The Elevator Pitch" (crafting a 5-minute research pitch)
- Kennedy Pharmacy Center: "How to Give an Elevator Pitch" (pitching yourself professionally)
- Forbes: "The Perfect Elevator Pitch to Land a Job"
- MindTools: "Crafting an Elevator Pitch" (introducing a company)
More Family Science Information From NCFR
- 'We Are Family Science' website — a simple website for lay audiences
- About Family Science — a more detailed introduction to Family Science
- The History & Name of Family Science
- Glossary: Key Terms of Family Science Identity
- Bibliography: Family Science as a Discipline
- Degree Programs in Family Science guide
- Exploring Careers in Family Science
More Ways to Promote Family Science to the Public
Want to proactively promote Family Science or findings from Family Science research?
Learn how you can share Family Science knowledge to create greater impact and benefit the public, from the 2021 Family Relations journal article "Emerging Ideas. Advancing Family Science Through Public Scholarship: Foster Community Relationships and Engaging in Broader Impacts," written by J. Kale Monk, Tashel C. Bordere, and Jacquelyn J. Benson:
Monk, J. K., Bordere, T. C., & Benson, J. J. (2021). Emerging ideas. Advancing family science through public scholarship: Fostering community relationships and engaging in broader impacts. Family Relations, 70(5), 1612–1625. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12545