Pithy persuasion: Engagement in 3-minute theses

Ken Hyland, Hang Joanna Zou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


Academic communication crucially involves readers, or hearers, buying into an argument. The audience has to be hooked, involved and led to a desired conclusion, and this is perhaps no more urgent than in a Three Minute Thesis presentation (3MT). In this competitive environment, doctoral students present their research using only one static slide in just 180 seconds. Speakers are advised to tell a 'story' but they must still draw on familiar ways of ensuring their hearers can make connections in their presentation and be willing to accept their argument. In this paper we apply Hyland (2005a) engagement framework to a corpus of 120 3MT presentations to explore how academics establish interpersonal rapport with non-specialist audiences. We find engagement to be a useful analytical tool in this monologic speech context and discover disciplinary preferences in the use of engagement features. Our findings have important implications for postgraduate speaking and for EAP teachers preparing students to orally present their research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21–44
Number of pages24
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number1
Early online date11 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • engagement
  • academic speaking
  • disciplinary practices
  • 3MT
  • Three-minute thesis

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