Neil Cocks writes: Congratulations to Jessica Sage on winning the University of Reading ‘3
Minute Thesis’ competition. PhD students are asked to explain their thesis
in 3 minutes to a non-specialist audience.
Here is Jessica reflecting on the event:
‘I was surprised and pleased to win the ‘Three Minute Thesis’ competition
at the Grad School on Friday. I must admit to being a little cynical when
my tutor suggested I enter, but even before I have my presentation the
experience had been both useful and interesting.
Having to write a 200 word abstract certainly made me confront my concerns
about summarising my work (did I really have anything to summarise? Would
anyone outside the field understand or care what I had to say?) and the
exercise also gave me more confidence in the way that my thesis is hanging
The process of writing the presentation was a balancing act of staying true
to my theory and method but explaining them in a way that was accessible to
a non-specialist audience. My first attempt was 1000 words long so you can
imagine the number of drafts I went through.
The event itself was incredibly informative and a lot of fun. The twelve of
us presenting were all a little taken aback by the size of the audience and
I felt rather out of my depth as the only humanities presenter. I needn’t
have though: the conference was incredibly welcoming and the presentations
were succinct, witty and clear; I was amazed and enthused by the breadth
research being undertaken at the University.
The event was not only a useful exercise of summarising my work, as I had
thought provoking discussions with people from all kinds of departments
about the issues related to my thesis; one man in particular is researching
energy policy in the elderly and has been wrestling with the question of
how policymakers define (or rather don’t) what constitutes ‘old’. The
foundation of my research is an engagement with the question ‘what is a
child?’ and the potential we have to inform each other is making me think
differently about my own work.
It’s perhaps no surprise then that I would really recommend the competition
to other PhD students in the department next year. Aside from some early
railings against brevity the exercise didn’t take up a lot of my time and
even before winning I had got more out of the experience than I had put