Well I'm 8 months part time into my PhD, and still need to work on the 'dinner party test', whereby when someone asks what I am researching, I can give a short cogent answer that most people can understand, compared the to the academic thesis title and description that might as well be in Klingon for anyone not doing a PhD in theology.
I now usually answer with different versions, depending on how interested the person asking is. The short version is currently something like this:
"I'm trying to show how consumerism functions like a religion, and the implications for people wanting to become and grow as Christians"
or the next longer version:
"I'm exploring how consumerism functions as a religious system, and the affects that has on people who want to form Christian identity, in particular in relationship with other Christians as the Church"
and the next level for theology students, or people who want to look at me blankly:
"Well my research thesis title is 'Ecclesiological Realism: The challenge of Capitalism and the Market to Concrete Missional Ecclesiologies.' Within that I am trying to explore and understand the nature of Capitalism and the Market as a competing religious system, it’s affects upon Christian religious beliefs and practices, and the implications for formulating appropriate concrete missional ecclesiologies in response."
I'm going to make a series of posts over the next few weeks, and unpack what I am trying to show within that broad area, for the 1 or 2 people who might be interested :-)