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How to Create an Award-Winning Video to Showcase Your Research Story Using

Video research

Hi, my name is Dr Arosha Weerakoon. I am a Dentist doing a PhD at the University of Queensland located in Brisbane Australia.

My research is directly related to clinical practice. I am trying to customize the selection of our white fillings to suit individual patients. What most people don’t realise is that we have many different types of fillings materials, and the moment, most Dentists will use the same filling material on all patients.

While doing a PhD is mostly about conducting research, it is also very important to be able to communicate your science. Recognising the importance of Science Communication, Universities Australia, the peak National body that oversees all Australian Universities hosts an annual competition called ‘Pitch It Clever’.

The competition challenges early career researchers such as myself to communicate the importance of my science and why it matters to the general population.

Part of the challenge is to create a video for up to 2 minutes that is engaging and interesting. Being the person that I am, I decided I would take on the challenge and won the top prize!

How I approached creating my video

I created my two minute video over the Christmas-New Year break. I was really spurred-on by the fact that I had just received two grant rejection letters on Christmas eve. Yep, Merry Christmas to me. Rather than dwelling on total devastation, I decided to divert my energy towards something creative.

My biggest hurdle was being a total noob with video editing software.

My biggest hurdle was being a total noob with video editing software. At first, I thought I might play around with animation, as I had a subscription to Animatron Studio. But after having a play around with, I knew I had found my product! The rest as they say, is history.

While not everyone may want to enter a video-making competition. I think creating a video that explains your research is a wonderful addition to any presentation.

So what are three good reasons you should create a video to unpacks your research?

  1. It’s a lot of fun – The platform provides a very simple and fun way to create your own video.
  2. It beats any introduction you could use when doing an oral presentation at a scientific meeting.
  3. It could win you an award!

Storyboarding a short (up to 2 minute) video that clearly unpacks your research work is not much different from the process of creating a marketing video.

However, there are some important points to consider. In this blog, I unpack the process behind my award-winning 2 minute video.

The biggest challenge

It would be lovely if all of the research we conducted involved puppies and babies. But what if your work involves cells and molecules that only a few have seen under a microscope?

In my case, I am studying teeth, and they are not so cute! So I personally found it helpful to find similes and metaphors connected to my research when explaining research to non-experts.

Creating your video: 14 easy steps

To begin with, try starting with a question that is relatable to most, and find video content that creates an element of surprise.

Step 1. Begin with a big picture question (or two) and insert an element of surprise.

I started my video with the question, “Need a filling?” The obvious video content would be to find someone holding their face with toothache or a video of a dentist right? Wrong! Most people describe that lost filling feeling like ‘it’s a big cave in there!’ so I searched for a suitable video involving a cave. 

Make a video: success story

Follow your big picture question with a knowledge test. “Did you know…?”

“Did you know that most white fillings are replaced every five years?”

Step 2. Numbers are important, but keep them relatable.

Statistics and numbers are great. Research is full of them!

But how can you make your numbers relatable? The answer is simple – visuals!

To make your numbers relatable, turn them into visuals.

Visuals, either in the form of an image or video are a great way to help people understand statistics.

So how did I communicate the impact of having a filling replaced every 5 years?

I found a great stock video of an elderly man with a young child who could be his grandchild. So assuming this child was around 10 years old, she would need this filling replaced 14 times before she reaches her grandfather’s age.

Make numbers relatable with visuals

Pro tip: If you are trying to convey shear amounts of fluid, it helps to relate the volume to everyday relatable situations such as how this amount may translate to a number of football fields or swimming pools.

If you’re trying to use a percentage – for instance 50%, you might say ‘every second person you meet on the street…’ along with an appropriate visual.

Create award-winning videos with

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Step 3. Now tell the viewer what they are about to hear.

You can either provide the viewer with an overview. I prefer to ask more questions because they act as prompts. Prompts can prepare the viewer for what’s to come.

So, ask the question: Why is this happening? What are we doing to solve this issue?

Step 4.  Start with the problem

This is where most researcher’s come unstuck. How can you explain your research in a way that everyone can understand?

Use loads of similes and metaphors. Try and find day-to-day objects or activities that could be used to explain a process.

So what do oranges and cakes have to do with my work?

Using allegory in your video

In my case, the technical description would be, “White adhesive restorative materials are debonding from dentine”.

I can easily translate my research problem to something people are familiar with.

However, not many people would understand what this means. I can easily translate my research problem to something people are familiar with, where filling materials are peeling or pulling away from our teeth – like peeling an orange.

But why are the filling’s peeling away from our teeth?

Because of the failure of the bond between the tooth structure and the filling material which is a bit like – you got it – icing that holds the cake together.

How to make a video: identify the problem

Everyone eats cake right? Now that I have identified the problem, I should provide the potential solution. But first – discuss a commonly held belief.

Step 5. Explain the controversy, current ideology or dominant paradigm behind your research.

But wait, there’s usually some sort of conflict or controversy. Every research story has some sort of controversy. It’s good to discuss this controversy and then explain how your work creates a point of difference.

In my case, most experts advocate the use of one filling material over another, like it’s some sort of competition. I wanted to use a fun way of explaining this and found some great footage of children in a tug-of-war.

How to make a video: explain things in a fun way

Step 6. Ask yourself: how does your idea differ from the status quo?

Now it’s your turn to state what you believe. What is your overarching idea? Once again, find a way of explaining your position in a relatable way.

Find a way of explaining your position in a relatable way.

In Dentistry, there are a lot of white filling products in the market, just like other products we might use in our daily life such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and so on. Would you say using the same filling material for everybody is a bit like using the same shampoo products? But we all have different types of hair, right?

This is where you could appeal to a person’s logical reasoning, and to explain this, I found a wonderful video of a group of friends with completely different hair types and styles taking a selfie.

How to make a video: make your idea different from the status quo

Even better, I timed my statement, “Like we should all use the same shampoo” at the same time when the fourth girl from the left wags her finger in disagreement.

Step 7. Decide what your personal stance is

So what is your personal stance? What do you believe or what does your research show?

Logically following the hair analogy – we can’t use the same shampoo because our hair is different. Similarly, we can’t apply the same filling materials to everyone because … our teeth are different. I believe that there is a mismatch between the filling material and the tooth structure we apply it to.

To explain this I needed to find an image or video showing this exact issue. How many times have we used a screw driver or a wrench that doesn’t fit?!

How to make a video: what is your personal stance?

Step 8. Introduce the detail

Explain all jargon with analogies – use lots of analogies, but start with big picture.

I start my explanation from the outside and move to the inside of the tooth until I reach microscopic level.

In my video, I explain liken the general differences in tooth structure to the structure of an egg. This helps people understand the location of the tooth structure I am focusing on, namely, Dentine.

How to make a video: step by step

I use a great time lapse video of ripening tomatoes to explain the changes to dentine as we age.

I then move on to explain that the collagen in dentine looks like under a microscope – a carpet! Guess what sort of footage I used to explain young dentine versus old dentine?

Young dentine is like new fluffy carpet…

while mature dentine is like an old matted rug.

Step 9. Present your argument.

Now that you have stated the facts behind your findings – you can present your argument.

In my case – Dentine changes with age and depth – and in keeping with the flooring theme, I chose a lovely image of different types of wooden flooring the make the point.

To add to this, our filling materials are different as well. Some will partially or completely remove the mineral to bond to the collagen, while others will bond to the collagen in teeth.

This reminded me of a vacuum cleaner or a carpet shampooer that is used to clean the dust and debris, or in my instance, the mineral from the collagen in teeth.

Step 10. Tie everything up with your title – and theme

What is the crux of your argument? I played around with the words and images until I was happy to convey my theme in a fun way.

“It’s all about bonding with fillings” – note there are still no images of fillings or teeth, keep your videos and images relatable.

Step 11. Briefly describe your overarching research goal

How will society benefit from your research?

Mine is to help your dentist select the correct white filling material for you.

Step 12. Work-out what’s in it for the individual viewer?

While it’s great that your research will help benefit society at large, what’s in it for the individual?

Well, longer lasting fillings means a lot less time at the dentist…

And a lot more time doing the things you love with the people you care for…and there’s nothing more scary to some than the approach of the dental drill.

Step 13. Time to introduce yourself.

Now that people are familiar with your work, it’s time they meet the person behind the video.

While searching through stock videos, I came across wonderful footage of a woman climbing a mountain. The footage combined with a brief intro worked really well as a platform to introduce myself.

Of course, you might insert a short video of yourself into this space.

Step 14. Add a call to action

When you use – every time you add new video content, you will be prompted to produce a call to action.

I cannot stress the importance of a call to action. In my case, I wanted to direct people to my different social media accounts so that they could continue following my research journey.

More helpful tips on adding sound provides you with the ability to embed sound and music into your video. In my case, I needed to add my voice.

While you can directly add your voice to the video, I recommend recording your script using a voice recorder. In my case, I used a H4N recorder and edited using Garageband.  This allowed me to remove all of my heavy breathing sounds and clicks to create a seamless professional sound.

Once I completed the editing, I uploaded the sound file in a .m4a format. It is much easier to edit your sound file before uploading it to

Other reasons why you should use to create your videos:

  • It’s very easy to format the videos to suit different social media platforms.
  • The watermark feature allows you to embed your institution logo throughout the video.
  • Because the editing process was so seamless, you will actually enjoy the journey.
  • You can add your own images, videos or sound files or choose from thousands of stock and fee for use high quality music, videos and images are easily and intuitively searchable.
  • You can work on it anywhere in the world, as long as you have a computer and internet access.
  • Did I mention that it’s a lot of fun!

Most importantly, your finished product will look extremely professional.

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