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Graduate Students Show Off Their Research in 3 Minute Thesis Competition

Thesis topics range from positive psychology in English education to grammatical structures in Hmong.

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Michelle Lung (left) and Nathan Adamson (right) placed first in TESOL and Linguistics, respectively..

Each year, graduate students around the globe challenge themselves to take the tens of thousands of words in their thesis and cut them down to just three minutes.

In the Three Minute Thesis format, which originated at the University of Queensland in 2008, students are allowed one static PowerPoint slide and are given 180 seconds to explain the background of their research, how it was conducted, what they found, and its implications for their field.

Graduate students in the BYU Department of Linguistics had their turn last Thursday. Suzanne Rice, who placed third at the university level in last year’s 3MT® competition for her presentation “Written Feedback Frequency in the Context of Accuracy and Fluency,” opened the event with a prayer. Students from the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) master’s program presented first, followed by Linguistics master’s students.


  • Mishelle Kehoe opened the event with a discussion of “shadowing,” a technique where a student reads aloud alongside spoken material (such as a TV show), as a method of improving intermediate English learners’ pronunciation.
  • Maryann Phillips presented an open-source curriculum she developed that uses principles of positive psychology as a medium of English instruction.
  • Michelle Lung, who placed first out of the TESOL presenters, shared findings that demonstrated the positive impact of rubric training on English students’ self-efficacy.
  • Kayue Chan discussed her use of goal-setting strategies into the language classroom and the emotional benefits they have for students.
  • Ana Barraza described her plan to study whether increasing the frequency of a particular grammar pattern in text or underlining the pattern when it appears help language learners to learn the grammar pattern.
  • Carolee Rogers explained the implementation of a positive psychology curriculum and the qualitative benefits it had for students without sacrificing language scores.


  • Nathan Adamson, the winner among the Linguistics presenters, explored the many functions of reduplication in Hiligaynon, a language spoken in the Philippines, and drew parallels to reduplication in English (e.g. “itty-bitty”, “do you like like him”, etc.).
  • Oxana Kodirova, building off a previous neurolinguistic study that demonstrated that native speakers of a language are less likely to notice a grammar error when the speaker has a foreign accent, shared her plan to replicate the study to see whether the findings still hold with a more substantial error.
  • Brooke Anderson described her research on historical changes to exclamations in the text of the Book of Mormon and how they reflect usage changes in English.
  • Luke Packer discussed Hmong elaborate expressions—phrases that follow an ABAC/ABCB pattern of reduplication, such as (lú) ɖóŋ l̥ǔa ɖóŋ tə̤̀ɨ—and his research to determine whether newly created elaborate expressions sound natural to native speakers of Hmong.
  • Devan Hunsaker presented his plan to use brain monitoring technology to study whether students with musical training can pick up the grammar of a foreign language more easily.
  • Daniela Ortega explained her hypothesis that brain activity is different when it processes positive words (like joy, happiness, friendship, love, etc.) and negative words (like fear, anger, pain, anxiety, etc.).

Lung and Adamson each won a $200 prize and will be moving on to the 3 Minute Thesis competition at the college level, which will be held on February 24 at 4pm in B192 JFSB. The university-level competition featuring the winner from each college will follow on March 10 at 10am in the WSC Varsity Theater.