Research made simple


4 minute read

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis takes years of meticulous research, thought, writing and re-writing. In most cases, they're about 10,000 words long. 

But can it be condensed to just three minutes?

“Yes, all it takes is confidence”, asserts Hedda Cui, a Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidate at the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE). 

Last week, Hedda was declared the winner of the CBE Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition by the panel of judges that included both academic and professional staff from CBE. She and her HDR peers had only three minutes, and one static PowerPoint slide, to explain their thesis in a concise and compelling presentation. 3MT is a global research-communication contest that originated at the University of Queensland that challenges HDR candidates to consolidate and describe their research discoveries to a non-specialist audience.

Participating candidates have several rules to consider during their presentation, including not wearing costumes or using props to assist conveying their point. 

“Initially, the most difficult part for me was having the courage to participate in the competition. My thesis supervisor, Professor Meijun Qian, convinced me that it would be an excellent opportunity to explain my research, and she was right,” reflects Hedda, who commenced her studies at CBE a decade ago as an undergraduate student, and is now pursuing her PhD at CBE’s Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics. 


 Hedda Cui, winner of last week's CBE 3MT competition.

She points out that her winning strategy involved two simple steps: writing a script for her presentation and practicing it in front of her non-academic friends. 

Hedda's presentation focused on the diverse factors contributing to the glass cliff – a phenomenon whereby women tend to be promoted to positions of power during times of crisis or downturn, when the chance of failure is more likely. 

As the winner of the CBE 3MT competition, Hedda will now go on to represent the College at the ANU 3MT Final on 1 September. 

Yi Wang, CBE 3MT’s runner-up and the recipient of the People's Choice award, described her participation in the College's competition as “a rewarding experience”. 

“While it is challenging to summarise years of work into a three-minute pitch, it feels great when I can actually demystify my findings to a wider audience. This competition helps shed light on what a HDR candidate does, and has provided people a better understanding of my own research and how it contributes to the world. I feel proud of myself,” shares Yi. 

Yi Wang

 Yi Wang, runner-up and recipient of the People's Choice award at the CBE 3MT competition.

She is currently exploring how companies manage their media coverage to keep the press from affecting their reputation and investor sentiment at CBE’s Research School of Accounting.

Associate Professor Ying-Yi Chih, the College's Director of HDR, believes the competition is a valuable initiative that HDR candidates should embrace.

“3MT encourages our HDR candidates to think about the importance and relevance of their research, and develop the skills to effectively explain their research in language that is appropriate for a broader audience. Such communication skills are critical for success in any career. Although the experience may be daunting, I was impressed by the quality of the presentations and enjoyed seeing the confidence our HDR candidates showcased,” shares Ying-Yi.


Watch the presentations delivered at the CBE 3MT competition. 

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.