Three Minute Thesis (3MT) – Dissertation Competition

A 100-page dissertation could take hours to present. Can you do it in 3 minutes?


3MT Three Minute Thesis Founded by the University of Queensland logo


The Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition celebrates the existing research conducted by PhD students. Developed by The University of Queensland (UQ), 3MT cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills. The competition supports their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

Our next competition is scheduled for Thursday February 24th, 2022!


The first 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2008 with 160 Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates 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 Trans-Tasman 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2010.

Since 2011, the popularity of the competition has increased and 3MT competitions are now held in over 600 universities across more than 65 countries worldwide.

2021 Virtual 3MT 

On Thursday, February 24, nine Ph.D. students from across CCAS doctoral programs in the humanities, sciences and social sciences faced off in friendly competition in the third annual CCAS Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Dissertation Competition. The competition challenges students to effectively communicate their research to a non-specialist audience in three minutes. 

In this year’s virtual competition students submitted pre-recorded videos of their 3MT presentations and the winners were announced at Thursday’s live event. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners were selected by a judging panel of CCAS faculty members; Professor Heidi Bardot, (Art Therapy) Professor Shelley Brundage, (Speech and Hearing Sciences) Professor Harald Grassheimmer (Physics) and CCAS Dean, Paul Wahlbeck (Political Science). A People’s Choice winner was selected by the audience. 

In total, student’s 3MT videos garnered almost 500 views within one week with the People’s Choice winner receiving over 170 individual views. It was a job well done by all of the doctoral students taking part in this year’s virtual Three Minute Thesis competition! 

Congratulations to this year’s winners!




First Place

Katherine Hinnant


Can You Fight Fires with Shampoos?



Second Place

Turni Chakrabarti


Disruptive Widowhood in the Bengali and British Novel



Third Place

Stephanie Gomez

Microbiology & Immunology

How Can the Immune System Be Activated to Treat Ovarian Cancer?


People's Choice

Djordje Modrakovic

Clinical Psychology

Better Safe Sex: HIV Preventative Interventions & Psychosexual Health Among Men Who Have Sex with Men


First Place = $1000

Second Place = $750

Third Place = $500

People's Choice = $500


Judging Criteria

At every level of the competition, each competitor will be assessed on the judging criteria listed below. Each criterion is equally weighted and has an emphasis on audience.

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 trivialize or generalize 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?



The Virtual 3MT competition is open to all active CCAS PhD students who successfully advanced to candidacy no later than 1 February 2021.  Students must be in good academic standing.

Why Participate?

During your PhD there is a strong focus on the production of your dissertation. The ability to communicate the importance of your research project and articulate your findings is very valuable. The Three Minute Thesis competition provides you with the opportunity to:

  • Communicate your ideas effectively to the wider community;
  • Describe your research findings to a non-specialist audience;
  • Crystalise your thoughts about your dissertation;
  • Increase your profile within the CCAS research community, staff and wider community; and
  • Network with other PhD students.

Virtual 3MT Rules

  • 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 (if possible);
    • Filmed from a static position; and
    • Filmed from one camera angle. 
  • 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 (mp4) only. No other forms will be accepted.

Please note: OGS will edit video submission by adding a title slide beforehand and will overlay the 3MT slide in the video before it is released.  Competitors will not be judged on video recording quality.  Judging will focus on the presentation, ability to communicate research to a non-specialist audiences, and the 3MT slide.


Virtual 3MT Preparation

Below are some helpful tips on preparing and presenting your virtual presentation.

Write for your audience

One of the judging criteria looks for evidence that you can explain your research to a non-specialist audience. To do this you may like to:

  • Avoid jargon and academic language;
  • Explain concepts and people important to your research (you may know all about Professor Smith’s theories but your audience may not);
  • Highlight the outcomes of your research, and the impact it will have;
  • Imagine that you are explaining your research to a close friend or fellow student from another field; and
  • Do not devalue your research, what you are doing is exciting and you should convey enthusiasm for your subject.

Tell a story

You may like to present your 3MT like a story, with a beginning, middle and an end. It’s not easy to condense your research into three minutes, so you may find it easier to break your presentation down into smaller sections. Try writing an opener to catch their attention, then highlight your different points, and finally have a summary to restate the importance of your work.

Have a clear outcome in mind

Know what you want your audience to take away from your presentation. Ideally, you would like the audience to leave with an understanding of what you’re doing, why it is important and what you hope to achieve.

What not to do

Do not write your presentation like an academic paper. Try to use shorter words, shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. You can use humor, however be careful not to devalue your presentation.


Proof your 3MT presentation by reading it aloud, to yourself and to an audience of friends and family. This allows you to not only check your style, but it will allow you to receive critical feedback. Ask your audience if your presentation clearly highlights what your research is and why it is important.

An engaging visual presentation can make or break any oration, so you want your slide to be legible, clear and concise. You may like to consider some of the following suggestions.

  • Less is more: Text and complicated graphics can distract your audience – you don’t want them to read your slide rather than listen to your 3MT
  • Personal touches: Personal touches can allow your audience to understand the impact of your research.
  • Creativity drives interest: Do not rely on your slide to convey your message – it should simply complement your spoken oration.
  • Work your message: Think about how your slide might be able to assist with the format and delivery of your presentation – is there a metaphor that helps explain your research?

Practice, practice, practice Before you record your presentation is it important to practice so you can present with confidence and clarity.

Vocal range

  • Speak clearly and use variety in your voice (fast/slow, loud/soft).
  • Do not rush – find your rhythm.
  • Remember to pause at key points as it gives the audience time to think about what you are saying.

Body language

  • Stand straight and confidently.
  • Hold your head up and make eye contact.
  • Never turn your back to the audience.
  • Practice how you will use your hands and ensure your presentation is recorded/delivered from a single position.
  • Do not make the common mistakes of rolling back and forth on your heels, pacing for no reason or playing with your hair as these habits are distracting for the audience.


  • While there is no dress code, if you are unsure of how to dress you may like to dress for a job interview or an important meeting.
  • Do not wear a costume of any kind as this is against the rules (as are any props).

There are three factors to consider when selecting your location to ensure you are producing the best video possible: light, sound and background.


Dark environments impact the overall quality of your video because cameras do not perform well in dim lighting. Ensuring you are well lit guarantees the camera and therefore, your audience, can see you clearly. Look for a room in your home that has lots of natural light. If you are using light from a window, ensure you are facing towards the window so light falls on you directly. Any additional lighting you can introduce will further improve the quality of your video. Look around your home for desk lamps, torches etc. Watch this tutorial for more information.


When filming video at home, ensure you choose a very quiet environment where you have as much control over the sound as possible. For example, choose a small room where you have the ability to close all doors and windows. Make sure any noisy electronics in the room such as fans, air conditioners, computers, phones and possibly even your fridge are temporarily turned off. These are much louder in video than you may think and are very distracting to your audience! Be aware of any audible interruptions you don’t have control over such as aeroplanes, lawns mowers and cars. Consider filming during a quiet time of day such as early in the morning when there are likely to be less interruptions. If there are audio interruptions during your recording, do not continue. Wait it out and try again at a later point!


Aim for a clean, plain wall as your background, completely free of visual distractions from the waist up where you will be framing your shot.

Whether you’re filming on a phone, tablet or web cam, there are further factors to consider when actually setting up to film your video:


Ensure phones and tablets have enough storage available, are in aeroplane mode, fully charged and either connected to a tripod or, placed on a stable surface. A friend cannot offer to be a tripod by holding your phone or iPad for you: Your video needs to be completely stable as movement is very distracting.

Camera orientation

Ensure phones and tablets are turned onto their side so the video is filmed horizontally not vertically. This is to ensure the finished video is the correct shape and size when uploaded to Vimeo.


To ensure your eyeline is correct, the tripod or surface where your recording device is placed, should be high enough so that the camera lens is in line with your eye level. Try to avoid the camera lens having to either point up or down towards you.


Set up your shot so you are to the left of the centre of the frame without being cut off at the top and so you can be seen from the waist up. The right side of the video frame should be just the blank wall background, as this is where your slide will be edited in.


Before you start recording, ensure your device is able to auto focus on you and isn’t focusing on anything else around you instead. Be sure to watch your recording back and ensure you remain in the focus the entire duration.


Ensure your recording device isn’t too far away from you. The microphone on the device should be as close to you as possible to achieve both the desired framing and to ensure the audio is as clear as possible.

Test recording

Complete a short recording of a portion of your talk. Ensure you are speaking at the volume you intend to use for your presentation. Review the test recording to ensure all of the above elements are complete and working.

Presentation tip

Be aware of your eye movement. Maintain eye contact with the camera lens as though they were a person in the audience watching you present live.

Previous Winners

2020 Winners



First Place

Kimberly Foecke

Human Paleobiology

Nitrogen, Neanderthals, and Seeing Diet in the Past.


Second Place

Abhilasha Sahay


The Silenced Women: Can Public Activism Stimulate Disclosure of Violence Against Women.


Third Place & People's Choice

Michelle Kramer

Cognitive Neuroscience

Context Matters: How Previous Events Influence Airport Baggage Screening Success.


2019 Winners



First Place

Elizabeth Pertner

Political Science

Watching the Watchdog


Second Place

Matthew Lefler


Making Carbon Nanotubes from Thin Air


Third Place

Chelsea Ullman

Public Policy and Administration

How Can Policy be Used to Get Justice for Campus Sexual Assault Survivors?


People's Choice

Jiaqi J. O'Reilly

Biomedical Sciences: Neuroscience

The Placenta: The Most Important Organ That Everyone Loses