Mastering the Three Minute Thesis

Students competed to represent the College of Humanities in a university-wide Three Minute Thesis competition.

PROVO, Utah (February 25, 2015)—Imagine condensing 80,000 words – the size of a 300-page novel – into a three-minute presentation for an audience with no prior experience in your field, a field that you’ve dedicated your college career to. You’ll have to grab their interest, give them all the background they’ll need to get up to speed and then leave them wanting more.

Ten students did just that in the College of Humanities’ second annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. The students were nominated by their various departments and graduate programs to present their theses before a panel of judges.


The 3MT competition was developed in 2008 by the University of Queensland to challenge higher-degree students, especially their presentation, communication and research skills. Students compete in sharing their theses effectively to an audience of nonspecialists in a severely limited amount of time and with a single PowerPoint slide. The first international competition was held in 2010, and today over 170 universities across 18 countries participate.

This marks the second year in a row that the College of Humanities has held its own 3MT competition. Students were judged on how clearly they presented their material, avoiding jargon and giving sufficient background; how well they engaged their audience, leading them to want to know more; and how strongly they asserted their presence on stage, maintaining confidence and poise.

First place went to Rui Li – a T.E.S.O.L. (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) masters student – and her presentation, “Enhancing the L2 Motivational Self System of Chinese EFL Students.” Li’s thesis research is focused on developing strategies for motivating Chinese high school students learning English as a foreign language.

Second place went to John Nielson – a linguistics masters student – and his presentation, “Spanish-Dominant Bilingual Perception of English Vowels.” His work explores how speakers of different languages experience and interpret vowel sounds differently when learning new languages.

Jared Pence – an English masters student – took third place with his presentation, “A ‘Peculiar Insanity’: The Paradox of Exceptionalism and Anglophilia in the Claimant Tradition.” His research covers anglophilia – the American fascination with British culture – and how it works against the ideas of American exceptionalism.

Li and Nielson went on to compete against students from the other BYU colleges on March 5. At the university-wide 3MT competition, the first-place winner, a student from the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, received $5,000.

—Samuel Wright (B.A. American Studies ’16)