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How to talk about your thesis in 3 minutes

To help research students prepare for the 3 minute thesis competition

Inger Mewburn

on 29 June 2012

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Transcript of How to talk about your thesis in 3 minutes

(3 minute) Thesis Idol How to present your thesis in 3 minutes, or: so you think you can explain what you are doing? This prezi was composed by:
Dr Inger Mewburn,
Research Fellow @ RMIT School of Graduate Research Thanks for listening!
Contact: inger.mewburn@rmit.edu.au
Twitter: @thesiswhisperer What is it? How to do it Unexpected Concrete Credible Emotional Stories This framework was developed by Chip and Dan Heath and
outlined in their book "Made to Stick"
http://www.madetostick.com/ A single PowerPoint slide (no slide transitions are permitted).
No additional electronic media are to be used (e.g. sound and video files)
No additional props (e.g. costumes, instruments) are permitted
Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum or you will be disqualified The rules To present a oration about what you are doing, how you are doing it and why in a way that engages the audience, without reducing research to purely entertainment value The 'what, how and why' of your research should be in your thesis abstract anyway... think of this as the 'user friendly version' Note that results are not explicitly mentioned in the judging criteria so you do not have to report them. However you must explicitly connect your research with ‘the real world’ Everybody's research is interesting So long as you don't present it like this Anyone studying a research degree (Masters or PhD) even if you have submitted (but not if you expect to receive your results by September the 28th) Who is eligible? Clarification - not simplification Can you think and communicate clearly?
Do you pay due respect to the body of knowledge?
Do you have interesting ideas?
Can you ask the right questions?
Do you know the implications of your work? Rugg and Petre ("The unwritten rules of PhD research, 2004) claim that as a PhD candidate you are viewed as a junior peer. Academics listening to you present will be wondering: Exercise What are the characteristics of a bad academic presentation?

In small groups make a list of the top 5 things not to do when presenting your research to other academics. Is an academic audience that much different to an audience of the 'educated general public'? Too technical – lose interest
Too much on each slide – get lost – try to read while trying to listen is hard!
No structure – doesn’t seem like a ‘story’. Takes too much energy to listen.
Reading from notes - don’t feel involved. Worse if less eye contact.
Unclear speech – not understand or follow what is being said
Visible emotion – makes you feel for them and is distracting
Too simple – feel ‘talked down to’
Body language – too much or not enough
Small font or wacky fonts undermines the authority of the speaker
Lots of different fonts or colours – distracting again Here's what other students have said Communicating research to non disciplinary audiences can be difficult because we cannot rely on shared knowledge and language Let's look at some winning 3MT presentations: 2010 Australia & New Zealand 3MT Winner - Balarka Banerjee (The University of Western Australia) 2010 Australia & New Zealand 3MT Runner-up -- Gabrielle Briggs (The University of Newcastle) 2010 Australia & New Zealand 3MT People's choice -- Alex Jordan (The University of New South Wales) Common Characteristics:

Didn't try to say too much and spoke relatively slowly.
Used pauses to highlight important points as well as rises, falls and stresses in tone.
Tried to communicate only one core idea
Included a story, metaphor or emotional element
Gave concrete examples
Did not ‘telegraph’ moves: never used “My research questions are…”
Told you enough to make you curious or told you something unexpected Daniel Crabtree at the Victoria University in Wellington What's the difference between these ones And this one? Which is nearly as good Here's a method to help you build up a 3 minute thesis pitch. There are other ways, but this is easy and works well for most people Simple Our information environment is noisy and chaotic. If you want ideas to stick you need to aim for elegant simplicity – this is very hard to do. The first step is to identify the core of the idea Complete the following sentence:

"The purpose of my research is... (50 words)"

Then swap sentences with your neighbour and give each other some honest feedback. Exercise: There’s method in my madness. If I asked you to describe your thesis first we would get caught up in explanations and clarifications. By asking you first what the reason for doing it is the thesis should come along with it in its most simple form. You might start with: If we don’t understand *blah* we can’t *blah* We are ‘guessing machines’ always trying to anticipate what is next.
Surprise jolts us out of these habitual patterns and focuses our attention.
But remember - there’s a fine line between surprise and gimmick. We can’t demand attention – we must attract it. The most basic way is to provoke surprise and interest by breaking a pattern You may not have realises you had a 'Mona lisa pattern' until you saw these variations! Do you have an unexpected aspect of your research? What might be counter-intuitive? Where does it disrupt ‘common sense’?

Try and write it in a sentence to share with the rest of the group. Exercise: I'm going to leave this out because you 'borrow' credibility from RMIT merely by being a student. If you examine something with your senses it is concrete. Close your eyes as you think about these statements in turn Remember the capital of NSW
Remember the chorus of your favourite song
Remember the Mona Lisa
Remember the house where you spent most of your childhood
Remember the definition of ‘truth’
Remember the definition of watermelon Which ones are most vivid? Metaphors are useful because they 'borrow' features from the everyday world of experience Exercise: Can you use a metaphor to explain your research method, topic or a key problem you are working on? Try and write it as a sentence to share with the group I could tell you that doing a thesis is hard and about 1/3 of people who start never finish or I could tell you it feels like this You can make people to care more about your research if you can get them feel some degree of emotional engagement.

The easy way is to ‘piggy back’ your research on a care or interest that already exists. It could be a current social concern or it could directly appeal to the audience’s self interest (WIFM) When ideas are presented abstractly, or limited to statistics, people are more likely to shift into an analytical register rather than an emotional one. For example: I'd like to know the story behind this photo... Stories act to draw the audience into the story teller’s world and help us to identify with the scenario being told. Exercise: Is there a story that you can use to talk about your research? Better still - can this story make us feel emotionally involved? Sometimes good stories are behind why we are doing the research in the first place Or make us curious? When you were asked to think of 'definition' you probably thought of this, not the word 'fruit' WIFM?
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