Getting the Message Across

Getting the Message Across

My speech is chopped and changed and reordered continuously. How can I describe the enormity of the last three years of my life in just three minutes? I have to try. It's for the good of my research, and of science!

Next week I will present in the first heat of the Three Minute Thesis Competition at Melbourne Uni. A now international initiative, this event challenges PhD students, like myself, to distill their complex research into just a three minute talk.

Three minutes only! One second over and the participant is disqualified. 

But don't be fooled. This isn't a mini conference paper, or completion seminar. It's more like what researchers explain in a radio interview, or an op-ed piece. 

As a PhD student, in the meaty part of my doctorate, this competition could be just another time-waster taking away from my writing commitments. But even while I have been rehearsing for the first round, I have noticed how useful it has been.

KISS Principle

When you only have three minutes, you really have to know what the main messages are. Make. Every. Word. Count.

My scientific writing could benefit from this approach. I looked over some early drafts of my lit review and found this shocker of a sentence:

Researchers, academics, policy-makers, the media and other players in public discourses have contributed to understandings of young people who offend – of which a crucial component is the theorising of why youth offending occurs.

Looking back on this now, it is incredibly complex. I have to do a double take to make sure I understand my own words.

English spelling reform? A waste of time

English spelling reform? A waste of time

Nathaniel Swain
The Conversation 2 March 2015

My 11-year-old student sighs. How can the same letters make so many different sounds? We are looking at the letter combination “ough”. which can be read in seven different ways: “through”, “thorough”, “although”, “plough”, “thought”, “cough” and “rough”.

Certain movements around the English-speaking world think our spelling system is just too difficult. In the UK, the English Spelling Society has renewed calls for spelling reform. They want to change words with extraneous letters and make it easier to spell.

The society proposes spellings like “wensday”, “crum”, “cof”, “distres” and “milenium”. For some, including me, these suggestions produce a visceral reaction; others may see this as progress.

Find out why this is a waste of time that won't improve kids' literacy skills.