The Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a skills development activity that challenges Higher Degree by Research students to explain their research project to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes.

3MT® celebrates the exciting research conducted by PhD students. Developed by The University of Queensland (UQ), the exercise cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills. Participation in 3MT supports competitors to:

  • Communicate their ideas effectively to the wider community;
  • Describe their research findings to a non-specialist audience;
  • Crystalise their thoughts about your thesis;
  • Increase their profile among the University research community, staff and wider community; and
  • Network with other HDR students.


The first 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2008 with 160 Research Higher Degree students competing. In 2009 and 2010 the 3MT competition was promoted to other Australian and New Zealand universities and enthusiasm for the concept grew. Due to its adoption in numerous universities, a multinational event was developed, and the Inaugural TransTasman 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2010.

Since 2011, the popularity of the competition has increased worldwide, and 3MT competitions are now held in over 900 universities across more than 80 countries. 

2016 brought an expansion of the Trans-Tasman 3MT competition to include universities in South-East Asia and North-East Asia.  This regional event is now called the Asia-Pacific 3MT competition, which the University of Adelaide participates in annually.

Want to know more? You can visit the Three Minute Thesis website for further information.

2020 Virtual competition

Due to the worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, social distancing measures and restrictions on public gatherings, The University of Queensland (founder of 3MT) has made the decision to move the 2020 Asia-Pacific Three Minute Thesis Competition to a virtual format (video submission) in the best interests of public health.

This temporary move to a virtual video submission format will continue to allow Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates to participate in 3MT, hone their communication skills, receive international peer review, and gain skills surrounding the presentation of their research to a wider audience. 

See below for further information about specific aspects of the online competition: 

  • Eligibility

    Active PhD and Professional Doctorate (Research) candidates who have successfully passed their confirmation milestone (including candidates whose thesis is under submission) by the date of their first presentation are eligible to participate in 3MT competitions at all levels, including the Asia-Pacific 3MT competition. Graduates are not eligible.

    Master of Philosophy (Research) and pre-confirmation PhD candidates cannot go through to University finals, but are encouraged to join in and be part of the fun at Faculty level.

    Eligibility for the Virtual 3MT Competition
    In 2020, only University of Adelaide PhD candidates who have successfully passed their Major Review by the 3MT video submission deadline (17 July 2020) will be eligible to progress to the Virtual University of Adelaide Final. All active HDR students can participate and have their 3MT judged in the Virtual 3MT Faculty round. 

  • Virtual 3MT rules

    The following rules apply to the Virtual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in 2020. They must be adhered to by all competitors.

    Virtual 3MT rules and recording

    • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
    • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through speech (timing does not include the 3MT title slide and commences from when the competitor starts speaking, not the start of the video).
    • Videos must meet the following criteria:

      - Filmed on the horizontal;
      - Filmed on a plain background;
      - Filmed from a static position;
      - Filmed from one camera angle;
      - Contain a 3MT title slide;*
      - Contain a 3MT PowerPoint slide (top right corner/right side/cut to)*

    • A single static slide is permitted in the presentation (no slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description). This can be visible continuously, or ‘cut to’ (as many times as you like) for a maximum of 1 minute or submitted via email if not included in the presentation.
    • The 3 minute audio must be continuous – no sound edits or breaks.
    • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment and animated backgrounds) are permitted within the recording.
    • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).
    • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted within the video recording.
    • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.
    • Submissions via video format only (Vimeo link provided to Faculty Coordinators). Files sent in other formats will not be accepted.
    • Entries submitted for Virtual University of Adelaide 3MT Final are to be submitted by the Faculty Coordinator. Competitors should not submit their videos directly to the AGC or 3MT.

    Please note: *Editing of videos to include a 3MT title slide and 3MT PowerPoint slide are optional and will not be scored negatively if this step is not completed. Slides will also be submitted as separate files.

    Please note: competitors *will not* be judged on video/ recording quality or editing capabilities (optional inclusions). Judging will focus on the presentation, ability to communicate research to a non-specialist audience, and 3MT PowerPoint slide.

    Please note: After each competition round competitors have the option to either submit their current presentation or rerecord and submit a new presentation for entry into the next round.

  • Virtual 3MT judging criteria

    At every level of the Virtual 3MT competition, each competitor will be assessed on the judging criteria listed below:

    Comprehension and content

    • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background and significance to the research question being addressed while explaining terminology and avoiding jargon?

    • Did the presentation clearly describe the impact and/ or results of the research, including conclusions and outcomes?

    • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?

    • Was the thesis topic, research significance, results/impact and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?

    • Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation - or did they elaborate for too long on one aspect or was the presentation rushed?

    Engagement and communication

    • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?

    • Was the presenter careful not to trivialise or generalise their research?

    • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?

    • Did the presenter capture and maintain their audience’s attention?

    • Did the speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace, and have a confident stance?

    • Did the PowerPoint slide enhance the presentation – was it clear, legible, and concise?

  • Virtual 3MT participation process

    To compete in the Virtual 3MT Competition, all participants will follow the process outlined below:

    1. Find out more. All interested participants should download the University of Adelaide Virtual 3MT Student Handbook to find out more about the competition structure in 2020.
    2. Register. Eligible HDR students register online to participate in the 3MT competition via Enter the 3MT page.
    3. Plan and prepare. Competitors plan and prepare their 3MT (create a title, 3MT PowerPoint slide, and 3 minute presentation) to communicate and share their research and its significance.
    4. Record. Competitors record a video of themselves delivering the 3MT presentation using a mobile/recording device, ensuring the recording adheres to the Virtual 3MT Competition Rules. Videos can be edited to include the 3MT slide, if desired.
    5. Upload. Once the 3MT video is finalised, competitors upload the video to Vimeo, an online video sharing platform.
    6. Submit. Competitors submit the 3MT to their Faculty Coordinator by the submission deadline (17 July 2020).
    7. Judging. All submitted 3MT videos will be added to the University of Adelaide 3MT website for judging in the Virtual Faculty and University competition rounds. All submissions will be judged against the Virtual 3MT Judging Criteria.

    For a comprehensive overview of the competition structure, processes, and requirements in 2020, competitors should download the Virtual 3MT Student Handbook.

    Do you have questions? Get in touch with your Faculty Coordinator for more information. 

  • Virtual 3MT student resources

    To support competitors with participating in the Virtual 3MT competition, students are encouraged to access the following resources:

    Virtual 3MT Competitors Guide prepared by the University of Queensland
    This online guide aims to assist participants with preparing for the 3MT, recording their 3MT video, editing the video, and uploading the video to be shared online. View the 3MT virtual competitor guide.

    3MT Training by CaRST
    Available to all University HDR students, competitors are strongly encouraged to attend the 3MT training session

    Past 3MT finalist videos
    All competitors are encouraged to view past 3MT finalist presentations from students at the University of Adelaide and elsewhere around the world.

    U21 pre-recorded 3MT video examples
    The Universitas 21 (U21) competition requires finalists to submit a pre-recorded 3MT presentation video for judging. Examples are available online for viewing via the U21 3MT website, and may provide inspiration for 2020 virtual 3MT competitors.