The Three-Minute Thesis

3MT-logoMy university recently hosted a day of heats for the Three Minute Thesis competition, a “is a research communication competition […] which challenges research higher degree students to present a compelling oration on their thesis and its significance in just three minutes in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience”.

I think have students prepare and deliver a three-minute thesis presentation would make a wonderful EAP speaking activity. It’s nice to add some variety to the EAP speaking roster, which can rely heavily on traditional academic presentations, seminar discussions and debates.

ESAP and Motivation

It’s also a nice opportunity for pre-Master’s or PhD EAP students to have the opportunity to bring their past and current areas of expertise into the EAP classroom, which can have  a positive effect on motivation. (Read Andy Gillet’s thought-provoking recent blog post on EAP and motivation here.)

ESAP Vocabulary

Similarly, preparing a three minute thesis  would force students to delve into the world of domain-specific vocabulary. For the three-minute thesis competition, a presenter must use “language appropriate to a non-specialist audience”. In an  EAP context with advanced learners, I would probably get students to do two versions of a three-minute thesis: one using the full extent of the vocabulary and structures as if it were being presented to a specialist audience, and then one for a non-specialist audience. I think the exercise of “translating” the presentation between these two registers would be a valuable one, which would allow the student to become more aware of not only the concept of register, but how it applies in terms of word choice in their specific domain.

Presentation Skills

Of course, a three-minute thesis exercise is also a great avenue for working on presentaion skills in general. (Advice on how to prepare a good presentation and videos of past winners abound on the internet.)


4 thoughts on “The Three-Minute Thesis

  1. I often do something similar as part of preparing students to give longer presentations (i.e. they give a very brief 2 or 3 minute summary as a mini-presentation in itself). I’d never thought of getting them to do a specialist and non-specialist version though – that sounds like a great exercise!

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