The importance of being interesting

One of the hardest parts of my job here at ANU is being responsible for ANU’s participation in the Three minute thesis competition.

Rebranding of the ANU three minute thesis for 2016 by Victoria Firth-Smith

Rebranding of the ANU three minute thesis for 2016 by Victoria Firth-Smith

Just in case you have just joined PhD land, the 3MT is an international competition for PhD students with only a couple of simple rules. You have to tell a non-academic audience what your research is about, how you are doing it and why anyone should care – in just three minutes. Just to make it harder, you are only allowed one slide as a presentation aide – no animations, no transitions, no sounds, no costumes or musical instruments (just in case you were wondering).

In theory it shouldn’t be difficult to persuade research candidates to participate in this competition – there’s a lot of prize money on offer after all. In practice however, it’s very hard to get people to engage.

My team and I spend about 6 months of the year marketing the hell out of this competition. We pepper PhD candidates and their supervisors with messages selling the many benefits of participating. We prepare a special training series with specialists like speech writers, performance coaches to get a perfect script and even a graphic designer to help them with that one slide.

Despite our best efforts however, the vast majority of PhD students at ANU don’t take up the challenge.

I understand the reluctance, I really do. Brevity is hard. Blaise Pascal (or so the story goes) nailed the difficulty of being succinct when he wrote to a friend:

“I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

But I don’t believe it’s the difficulty that really puts our PhD students off – they are doing a PhD after all. I think the reasons are cultural.

Academia is highly competitive, but we don’t like to talk about it that way. The contest of ideas is not the sort where there is an actual winner. That kind of contest belongs to sport, not academia, and let’s face it, most of us got here by not being very good at sports. Add to this the 3MT’s stated aim is to ‘sell’ research to the general public. The emphasis here is on the sizzle, not the sausage and this can be viewed as a little, well – academically unsavoury.

I’m indebted to ANU PhD student, Annie McCarthy for writing this thoughtful piece, which questions the three minute thesis talk as an emerging genre. Annie is disturbed by how the 3MT can position research and researchers as heroes:

“What simultaneously fascinates and repulses me about the three minute thesis competition is the way the language of ‘relevance’ is interpreted by participants and judges alike, or to put it simply: how many of us are going to save the world with our research.”

I’m not sure I totally agree with Annie there. The best 3MT presentations, such as this one by Barlarka Banerjee, let the research speak for itself. However I do share her discomfort with the idea that the 3MT is only for junior scholars:

“Everytime I hear a senior academic speak about the competition they all say something like ‘i could never talk about my research in three minutes.’ Which begs the question ‘why the hell not?’ and the secondary question of ‘is that because its actually impossible?’ And if thats the case what kind of dichotomy is the three minute thesis setting up, on the one hand confining senior academics to the land of waffling obscurity and young graduate students to the fast lane of the commercially viable drive through takeaway. “

Annie’s critique was spot on and got us thinking about the importance of role models. So this year we asked our own Nobel prize winning Vice Chancellor, Brian Schmidt, to do his three minute thesis at our 3MT launch event. He didn’t quite make the time limit, proving that the 3MT is difficult, even for highly experienced speakers, but he came very close.

The video is worth watching for what he says about the value of this kind of communication skill and how it has helped his research career:

I am an unashamed Brian Schmidt #fangirl, but you have to admit it’s impressive that he was a) willing and b) able to do it. If someone that busy can take time out of his schedule to do it, surely anyone can?

I’ve been running 3MT competitions for 6 years and, although it’s stressful and difficult, I believe it’s work worth doing. The skills it targets are so vital. Brian makes the point in this video that a successful career as a researcher depends on more than just smarts. You have to be able to sell yourself and your research to others – even other academics.

And this is where I have a slight problem with the 3MT as a concept – three minutes is too long.

Yes, you heard me right. Consider the academic conference or seminar tea table. “What is your research about?” is the most common conversational opener. This is small talk – not an invitation to give a lecture as some people seem to assume. In order to be able to function at a basic social level in academia it’s vitally important that you can do this in one sentence – and make it count so that people want to talk to you more. Talking builds connections and connections build careers.

The trick is to have a sentence intriguing enough to help the rest of the conversation unfold. While I was doing my PhD my one sentence would be: “I’m studying how architects talk with their hands”. My research was about how hand gestures are used by teachers and students in architecture classrooms, but that didn’t sound very interesting. By using the word ‘talk’ I put the emphasis back on communication.

My sentence about my current research is “I’m trying to teach machines how to read job advertisements”. The research is using natural language processing algorithms, but many people don’t know what that is. The computer scientists I work with call the final product ‘the machine’, so I have picked up on that language instead.

I’m deliberately being a bit of a tease with this new one liner – I’m not really trying to explain what I am doing, but give people an easy opening to ask questions if they want to. It’s also meant to make people think I am an interesting person doing interesting research. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about communications is that people will not remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. Being interesting is an important, but little recognised, cultural asset for a researcher.

I think the 3MT is a perfect training ground to develop that vital skill of being interesting, but what do you think? Do you have strategies to be interesting? Or does the whole idea strike you as false and make you feel uncomfortable? I’m interested to hear what you think in the comments.

Related posts

How to win (academic friends) and influence people

How to win the 3MT (a training slide deck)

Find out more about the ANU 3MT competition

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55 thoughts on “The importance of being interesting

  1. Malba Barahona says:

    You can gain some important skills participating in the 3M thesis competition. However, your publications, which are usually between 5,000-10,000 words long, will be more helpful to get a job in academia or get a research grant. So why bother?

    • Jules says:

      Because the first thing you do when you meet a person that can be a potential connection to a job is not handing them over your 5,000-word paper but rather a one-minute introduction to what you do. This kind of activity is not meant to replace your publications, it is meant to complement your career with skills (communication) that rarely get taught during a PhD. Some people might not need this as they are very good already but for most of the others could be a great improvement.

  2. Lurker says:

    I actually think the problem is that it’s a competition. You’ll be judged, and at the end of the night you’ll probably be a loser. You’ll slave over your talk, but some smarmy guy with a sexier topic, probably pure science based, will be declared the winner. The whole thing brings back bad memories of high school debate night. In real life academia, competitions are much sneakier and more subtle about who won and lost.

    • Thesis Whisperer says:

      I take your point – it is uncomfortable. However, in my experience there is a certain amount of ‘saving the world’ fatigue in the audience when they see science presentations one after the other. You get up with something like ‘the Death Speeches of Shakespeare’ or ‘cousin marraige in 17th century england’ and the audience is totally up for it.

      Real life examples by the way 🙂

    • E L Friesen says:

      Lurker, that one resonates with me! I’ve got zero desire to compete in a 3MT competition, especially when it takes so long to prepare. It’s serious time away from writing my thesis, and I already know my research ain’t sexy enough to win any prizes.

      • Emma Friesen (@elfriesen) says:

        🙂 Honesty? I feel it’d be insensitive to make mobile shower commodes and bowel issues for adults with SCi into a showy competition piece. My participants shared some very personal experiences with, and I’d be honouring them by trying to win 3MT.

        • Thesis Whisperer says:

          Your topic sounds really important and interesting Emma. In the six years I’ve been doing training and competition preparation, I’ve seen many people treat incredibly serious subjects like this with the respect and gravitas that they deserve – and the audience is visibly moved. It doesn’t always have to be the ‘show pony treatment’. In fact, as I said in another comment, the best thing to do is let the research speak for itself. I think explaining the implications of the research is the hardest part. Almost always it feels like a big stretch because you have to be speculative, but I’m a firm believer in the idea that 3MT can be authentic AND interesting.

      • Emma L. Friesen says:

        This is quite topic-specific for me. I’ve done other big projects involving participants with disability, and I’d happily turn them into 3MT if they were eligible. (Since they’re not my PhD, I can’t). But for some reason, my gut instinct about 3MT on my PhD topic was a very firm no.

  3. Academieke says:

    I just participated in my university’s 3mt this week and it was a great experience, despite the fact that I didn’t win. Generally I think that many academics lack strong communication and presentation skills. how many conference presentation have you sat through will being bored out of your mind? Not because the topic wasn’t interesting, but because the speaker was not an engaging speaker. I feel that 3mt really helped me think about being more engaging and practising this as well in front of an audience.. I also think that in the current climate where research funding is getting tighter it is more important than ever to be able to show the general pubic why they should care ( coz a lot of the research is paid by their tax money after all). So for researchers to have these skills of being an engaging talker and being able to briefly tell what your research is and why Joe Bloggs should care is an essential skill! And it is great that 3mt gives us the chance to practice this.

  4. Peter Graves says:

    Thank you for this reminder of the 3MT. Have you really considered why it is so hard to get people to engage ?

    I am absolutely repelled by the thought of such a competition and consider it caters for the attention-deficit disordered generation. If ”you” can reduce three years hard work to a 3 minute presentation, then there is something radically wrong with the attention of those to whom it is being pitched.

    Mine is on quite complex public sector matters, on which I had to write and re-write for my supervisor, so as to establish the basic gap in current research and why mine would be “new knowledge”.

    I really do suggest that the 3MT trivialises a major piece of academic work.
    Cheers – Peter
    Peter Graves MPH (Qld)
    PhD student – Public Sector Reform
    School of Business, UNSW Canberra
    Phone – 6268 8829
    MOB – 0450 699 102
    SKYPE – petergcanberra1

    • Thesis Whisperer says:

      HI Peter – yes, I have heard this critique many times. To tell the truth, I’m deeply conflicted about some aspects of the 3MT, but not that part. I think it’s possible to be succinct and lot cheapen research. The 3MT is not meant to be a comprehensive description of the research, but a taster. It acts this way with the (large) audiences we get at our ANU final at least. Candidates get follow up requests and people download their papers. The format is being increasingly picked up at other conferences as a way to encourage rapid sharing of ideas. I think the points Annie made about it being a ‘young person thing’ is more the problem. Phd Candidates should be treated as emerging scholars – anything that explicitly positions them as students is problemmatic. That’s why I’m happy to see the format being taken up widely and that the VC would come along and demonstrate why a person of his stature needs these skills.

  5. annon says:

    If you can tell someone what you are doing with an elevator talk you:
    1) Know exactly what the main points are of what you are doing (or will be doing) thus you it will be easier to write the dissertation because you’ve managed to narrow it down and focus
    2) Answer that question you will get from people (including at conferences) – what is your dissertation about without boring them, going on too long, etc.

    If you explain it in a way your grandmother will understand:
    1) You will not make the person you are giving the elevator talk to feel stupid
    2) You will demonstrate that you have the skill to turn something complicated into something anyone can understand

    My advisor told me he wouldn’t approve my dissertation proposal until I could tell him in several sentences what I was going to do. Then he gave me several more sentences for the specific questions I plan to ask and how I plan to do that. He then required me to write a 500 word abstract of the dissertation proposal. I found all that very helpful. He said until I can be concise, specific and short I still didn’t know exactly what I was doing and how I was going to do it. I found doing this did force me to narrow my overly broad view, focus my attention, cut the study down to something doable, and gave me key points to organize the lit review around.

    Wish I had known about this competition when I was doing my dissertation. One slide and 3 min would have been a piece of cake after what my advisor had asked me to do. I also found it helpful at conferences when I’d have 1/2 hour interviews and they asked me what my dissertation was about. Because I was clear, short and to the point there was plenty of time left over for them to ask me other questions they wanted to ask. At campus job talks I used my 500 word response repeatedly as a bunch of people asked me this. And then they could get a better feel about who I was because there was far more time for further questions.

  6. Jackson says:

    Very interesting discussion. I can see both sides of the argument. Opening up the competition to people who are no longer students would be great, I think. Perhaps there could be different categories for postgrads, ECRs, and senior researchers.

    I sympathise with Lurker, who dislikes competition, although I think we can start to leave our bad school memories behind at the postgraduate stage now that we’re among like minds.

    I made a considered decision not to enter 3MT this year because I don’t especially need the skill development, only the CV credit that would come from winning or doing really well. Therefore, given that the chances of success are, realistically, rather low, I decided it would be a relatively poor use of my time, especially at this stage of my candidature. At present I need to focus on actually doing my research instead of talking about it. Perhaps next year, though.

  7. Catherine Pope says:

    We ran our first 3MT competition this month and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The participants were (naturally) nervous and apprehensive beforehand, but all of them commented afterwards that it had significantly helped them with clarifying their research questions. One contender also participated in Thesis Boot Camp this weekend, and said that 3MT had made structuring her writing much easier.

    It was good for the university, too, as 3MT is essentially a showcase of the diverse research happening all over campus. It’s quite hard for us to achieve that sort of interdisciplinarity in any other context.

  8. Anon says:

    I agree with the ‘there are pros and cons’ vibe. I think the general idea of being able to talk about our research concisely is great. But in my experience the 3MT is *more* about making your research sound sexy or quirky or as though you’re saving the world, and less about the reality of what you’re doing.

    I did the 3MT at my Uni last year, and the final product was interesting, and understandable, and it sounded like my research was important (it was a darn good talk, if I do say so myself). The audience definitely bought into the idea that my research was a Big Deal. But in the end I felt like I had misled them – in reality, my research is nowhere near as close to producing something applicable, useful, or helpful than I led them to believe.

    For me, that is the big problem with the 3MT. It’s not as though the talks are judged on how well they get across a complex topic, but rather on how entertaining or important the talk/topic sounds. I guess that is a useful skill in itself, and I know I am glad for the experience. But I would prefer to be able to give a (more boring, admittedly) talk that more accurately represents specifically what I am doing, than the version that stretches the truth even though it carries the “I’m saving the world!” factor.

    • Alyce says:

      This is so very true and very similar to my own experience/ post below. I felt the 3MT was judged on how entertaining the delivery was and not explaining the research in an easy to understand manner.

  9. Renske says:

    Totally agree. And by the way, to talk about a different yet related subject: The Poster. Why do scientist try to put all the information about their research (including the statistical background) on that poster. Get back to the basics. If people want to know more? They can ask. Or ask for a hand-out. Start a conversation. Nobody will read the entire poster. Nobody. I always use this example:, though I still think it could be even more ‘to the point’. What do you think?

  10. cirrus29 says:

    I recently took part in a 3MT competition (in the UK) which on the face of it did feel like a massive waste of time, particularly as there were only about 10 people in the audience at the actual event. An important side effect of my preparation is that my parents-in-law (on whom I practiced my script) now have some idea what I actually do, and have stopped suggesting that I should be spending more time with my children instead of working on my thesis at weekends!

  11. Alyce says:

    I participated in my University 3MT competition last year. It was tough at first, to drill my research down to a 3 minute talk that others outside of my area could follow along. However, I advanced through to the final and with my supervisor’s assistance, put a great deal of effort into the talk. My research uses equipment from mining and advanced statistical techniques on data that is applied in a health science setting – it really ticked the “innovation” box! I was proud of my talk and how I could explain my research in a plain-language manner. However, the winner used a personal story with dramatic effect and spent at most 40 seconds speaking about her research project. The second runner up presented a very similar 3MT talk. I believe the competition was beneficial in developing my own confidence and “elevator” pitch however, am a little put off by competing again this year and going up against those who use personal stories.

    • Thesis Whisperer says:

      Indeed – personal stories are a good ‘trick’ for getting audience engagement. They have a tendency to backfire though, so I usually advise against using too much of this kind of tactic. Finding a ‘through line’ and creating a circular story structure can be done without including yourself necessarily. I’m glad you were proud of your talk – good for you!

  12. Anonymous says:

    As a mature aged part time student juggling work and motherhood, the last thing I need are distractions – and I see 3MT as a big one. I work on my career in other ways that mean I don’t need it on my CV. My time is valuable and it has to go on my thesis, or on networking face to face, or on the rest of my life. I don’t see any skills/benefits in the 3MT that a sensible, strategic student can’t get or develop in other ways. I definitely see 3MT as a ‘young person’s game’ for people who have the time.

    • joaquinbarroso says:

      Maybe you don’t need it in your CV but it would definitely boost your LinkedIn profile. Plus, no offense, you found the time to read this post and write a comment among work and motherhood which I know are time consuming and far more important than 3MT; and possibly you will also have the time to read this reply.

    • Emma L. Friesen says:

      “I don’t see any skills/benefits in the 3MT that a sensible, strategic student can’t get or develop in other ways. ”

      This line sums it up for me!!
      I’m also an externally enrolled candidate, so competing (ugh) would involve the time and cost of travelling to the university. I’d rather spend that time / money on a conference or workshop.

  13. Francis says:

    I think my reticence to take part in the 3MT (sorry Inger) stems form a hesitance to over promise. My social research is policy relevant and really could help to make the world a better place. I think it is exciting, important, and advances the field both methodologically and theoretically.

    I’m happy to defend these aspects of my research, but to do so to the general public requires much more background explanation than is possible in three minutes. Realistically, all I can hope to do in 3 minutes is outline the problem and how my research can help to solve it. Yet I am acutely aware that the probability of my research “making a difference” is only marginally greater than zero. If I’m honest, I’d end up admitting that evidence won’t change the world on its own and that the evidence I’ve produced during my doctoral research is likely to be ignored for political-economic reasons. And if by some miracle my research does contribute towards positive change, it will be because of all tireless work by advocates and the significant human suffering of my research participants and people like them.

    Therefore, to stand up in a 3MT and talk about how my research wil lchange the world seems like an act of bad faith or even intellectual disingenuousness. This is why I didn’t enroll in the 3MT this year.

  14. joaquinbarroso says:

    I would make it compulsory for students to participate, in fact I’m going to implement it in my lab even for masters and bachelor students (even if they cannot submit their video). I understand that the fact that being a competition can be daunting but it would be a great way to make people focus on what the true core of their thesis is. I think most students find it daunting because they try to make it a three minutes translation of the last five years of their lives which is clearly not the point.
    As the husband of a non-scientist I’m often faced by the question ‘so, what is it that you do?’ from our -now- mutual friends, so not only do I have to sum up my line of work into a couple of one-liners but I have to also do it in layman’s terms; it used to bother me at first but now I find it great, mostly because I’m perceived as interesting 🙂

    Cool post as usual!

  15. Yoko says:

    Interesting discussion but I wish people would stop using ‘grandma’ and ‘grandmother’ as shorthand for ‘someone who lacks the sophistication to understand academic work.’ In my view it is both ageist and sexist.

    • annon says:

      I am the one who used grandma. My grandma was in her 80’s when I explained it to her. Her background was English and she was born right about the time the car was first manufactured. I don’t think there was one person she knew in (who I also knew – I spent a lot of time there as her caretaker) her retirement home who would have had any clue what I was talking about had it explained it using academic jargon used in my field. And yes I realize there are also likely a few 28 year old grandmas out there who were screwing at 12 and gave birth and then a rinse and repeat with the next generation. On the other hand likely the majority of those folks wouldn’t have a clue either as the odds are greatly against them finishing school, let alone going on to get a PhD. I am sure some do it, but the path is much harder and the odds much lower as a result many fewer of that age group would have the education, knowledge, etc. to understand. I did not use the word grandpa because I don’t have one. They both died before I was born. If I had had a grandpa I would have included that in my post. Sheesh. Sometimes it is worth seeing horses instead of zebras; presume first the best from people rather than the worst.

      To reword that part of my post to be PC correct for those who can’t see the point unless it is – if you can explain what you are doing so that someone who knows little to nothing about your field, little to nothing about research methods, statistics, and whatever else is relevant to your work, wouldn’t know the front end of a dissertation from the back end, and they can make sense of your explanation then likely you can demonstrate by doing that that you can explain something complicated in terms likely even an undergrad college student can understand (a necessary skill); and if you can do that then people outside of your functional area, and at times they are way outside of your functional area, involved in the search committee can understand what you are doing without having to ask questions (some of which might be questions that those in the field would think are ‘stupid’ questions and the last thing you want to do is put someone in a position to feel like they will risk looking stupid in front of their peers). Does this pass the PC censors OK now?

      • malinidevadas says:

        Annon, my comment was not directed at you. In fact, I hadn’t noticed that you had used the term ‘grandma’ it in your post. I only commented because people have been using the term ‘grandma’ in this context for a long time and I think we could all probably stop using it now, given than many grandmas these days are highly educated. I’m sorry to have upset you. I actually enjoyed reading your original post and think it sounds like you had a good advisor and made the most of his advice and benefited greatly from it. When I work with academic staff and students, I suggest that they tell me about their work first, to get clear in their mind what they want to say, before they start writing.

      • Yoko says:


        My comment was about the common reference to ‘grandmother’ as a figure who is the obvious ‘other’ to the sophisticated and intellectual world of the university. I can see that in the case of your grandmother this makes sense but this does not explain why the phrase is used so routinely in a generic way – i.e. not referring to a specific person but to a category of persons who are presumed to be uneducated and/or naive by virtue of gender and age. What does this language suggest about grandmothers who may be planning to compete in the 3MT thesis? – in our school at least three HDR students are also grandmothers.

        I disagree that my comment is simply about being ‘PC correct’. Language matters and it has effects. As has been discussed on this blog there is still a tendency to think of the ‘ideal academic’ as a particular kind of person and those who do not fit this norm in terms of gender, age, race, class, disability etc can suffer disadvantage and discrimination as a result. That’s why I think it’s important to question these seemingly trivial habits of thought. I apologise if the comment seemed personal.

        • Thesis Whisperer says:

          It can be difficult to ‘see’ these gendered and ageist assumptions that are built into our language. Thanks for having a civilised discussion about it and three cheers for the grandmas doing PhDs! I’ve known many and they are such an inspiration to me. I very much aspire to be a grandma myself one day – now to convince Thesis Whisperer Jnr that it’s a good idea … 🙂

  16. Joanna Tai (@DrJoannaT) says:

    I think the relation of the 3MT to progression in candidature impacts on individuals’ experiences. The official rules say you have to be past confirmation to compete, which I think is appropriate. Too close to the beginning and one feels like an impostor. Unfortunately I was overseas for conferences during the department/faculty rounds for the following two years, and due to the weird situation of my department, I was a) the only person who entered and therefore went straight through to the faculty finals, and b) competing after I submitted my thesis! It felt awkward to compress my findings as well as cover the initial problem adequately. IMO those who could concentrate more on the question and methods, with the conclusions yet unknown, fit the “genre” of 3MT better. So trying to get people to do it immediately post confirmation (or as part of confirmation? oooh, controversial) might help… it also avoids the “I’m writing my thesis” crunch time towards the end.

    I also agree with the comments prior about the competitive nature being a turn-off. It really can get quite theatrical or dramatic – and while this demonstrates “polish”, I suspect for those who got into a PhD for genuinely wanting to research an area, putting a false, shiny veneer (saving the world, even) probably feels a bit fake. But then again – it comes down to how the judges use the rubric (which is relatively vague) for scoring.

    A PhD student in my department wanted to know if the 3MT comp was worth attending as a spectator – my response was yes, for the following reasons:

    1. Finding out what other people’s projects look like (scope, breadth, topic)
    2. Finding out how to compress a whole project into a 3 minute talk and/or present your project in an interesting manner
    3. “Hanging out” with other PhD students

    And of course, if one were to enter later, it’s a good idea to know what the standard is…

    So, there are a few advantages beyond “you learn to do the 3 minute elevator pitch” …

  17. Anon. says:

    I would strongly agree with many of the comments in favor of the 3MT. I personally participated a few years ago now and although I didn’t get past the finals, I felt it was a very rewarding experience and I do use it fairly often even now. As a side note, if you’re interested in other formats for presenting, FameLab (run by the British Council), Dance Your PhD and Pecha Kucha are some alternatives to the 3MT.

  18. Tony Michele says:

    This was enlightening. I came across the phenomenon towards the end if my Masters degree. I wish I had the chance to participate.

    I love the Blaise Pascal quote. Brevity is so important. Just thinking of it can improve one’s writing.

  19. Alice P says:

    I have done the 3MT twice now, and plan to do it again next year. Yes, it was time consuming and nerve wracking, but in the process of boiling my research proposal down to 3 minutes I realized that I didn’t fully understand how certain parts of it linked with one another. Even thought the timing of this year’s departmental 3MT heat was 5 days before my comp. exam, it was still a worthwhile activity for this reason.

    On another note, the attitude that one’s supervisor has towards participating in the 3MT has a huge impact on a student’s decision to participate. Some profs encourage it, others say it is a waste of time, and a few even sneer about it. I am fortunate my own supervisor falls within the first category.

  20. Mr. Sawatsky says:

    Fascinating read, I love how it is giving rise to debate. I had never heard of the 3MT competition before, I am definitely going to investigate further.

    However, I agree that 3 minutes is a perfect time restriction, if not too long as you say. Why? Because as Einstein famously said: “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”. To be able to condense one’s PhD thesis down to just a 3-minute speech, you MUST use simplified language and explanations, just like trying to explain it to a six year old without a time constriction. I think herein is where the struggle might lie – candidates could be unable to simplify a topic they perceive as irreducible complex.

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  22. Craig says:

    I think this is a very valuable competition, although I will not be entering for the simple reason that I live off-campus (inter-state) so the travel costs would be prohibitive. Assuming I lived nearby, I might still find myself reluctant to enter on the basis of lack of confidence about the importance of my research. I guess I would feel like a bit of a fraud spending my time talking about the area I am working in (which I think is sufficiently sexy and important), when my own contribution to that area of research may be extremely small. But perhaps that is the way to win the 3MT – focus not on what you are doing, but on the field you are doing it in.

  23. Hadassah says:

    Someone has probably already said this, but I think that academia (especially some of the humanities subjects such as I am in) suffers from a disengagement with non-academic society. I think this is a major issue — more could get done, research-wise; more funding is possible; more hope of continuing fields (some fields are, in essence dying through a lack of interest) — if we could engage non-academics more. Being able to summarise important research for someone who is not “in the know” as a member of the academic elite is vital if we are ever to engage the general public in a meaningful and helpful way. It doesn’t cheapen your research to be able to engage some layperson in your subject — if anything, it adds to it.

  24. soph rose says:

    I hope I can participate in this when I begin my PhD program in the following fall. Sounds like a great opportunity AND it calls for summary and synthesis… plus pizazz? Perhaps? Love it!

  25. Shanna Saubert says:

    I participated in the 3MT at the University of Leeds my 1st and 2nd years of my PhD. (I was the only one to do it two years in a row). I think it really helped me get my thoughts together and present my research coherently, and succinctly.

    I think everyone should have to be able to speak b r i e f l y
    It takes effort, yes, but it’s much more useful.

  26. geoffknott says:

    I did 3MT in my first year of PhD – what a great competition! It’s so much fun to boil your PhD down to its core, simplify the jargon and then explain to a general audience. It’s definitely a useful excercise and skill to carry on into future work

  27. paperown says:

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