Three Minute Theatre: Principles and practice for scripting and performing Three Minute Thesis presentations

Purpose – The aim of this paper is to help higher degree by research (HDR) students understand the
intrinsic nature of a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) presentation as a pitch and how this differs from
normal academic discourse, and to present a suite of principles and practices with which they can
develop the quality and impact of their presentations.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a three-year University of Canberra (UC)
research project involving three phases: distillation and analysis, with reference to theories and practice
of dramatic narrative and performance, of key components of successful past 3MT presentations;
establishment from this analysis of a suite of principles and practices to help students develop the
quality and impact of their 3MT pitches; and trial, evaluation and refinement of these principles and
practices via workshops with around 40 UC competitors.
Findings – Presentations are framed firstly as an exercise in pitching and consequently as a type of
dramatic monologue performance. Preparing such a presentation requires scripting a research
narrative as a story with emotional as well as intellectual impact, developing a vocal and physical
performance presence to connect with an audience and planning the use of the presentation space and
constraints for best effect. Evaluations by workshop participants, reinforced by their success in the UC
tournaments relative to non-participants, suggest that advantages of this approach to research pitching
by these students apply not only for3MTcontests but also for clarifying and crystallising their research
ideas, and for enhancing the quality of their presentation skills more generally.
Research limitations/implications – The research methodology is a qualitative participant-observer
action research study over three years. Although in part a kind of intervention study because it makes some
comparison of 3MT success rates of study participants with non-participants, it is not a randomised control
trial, as this would be inequitable by arbitrarily excluding subjectswhomight wish to take part.

Publication Source Information
Peter Copeman
Year of publication: 
Title of Journal, Edited book or Conference and Page numbers: 
International Journal for Researcher Development
URL or DOI: 
DOI 10.1108/IJRD-09-2014-0028
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