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Male presenting thesis in front of projected screen on stage

Three Minute Thesis

three minute thesis founded by the university of queensland

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is a research communication competition that challenges master's and Ph.D. students to describe their research topic and its significance in just 3 minutes to a general audience.

3MT seeks to enhance the profile of graduate students both within university communities and the wider community. 3MT develops academic, presentation, and research communication skills and supports the development of research students' capacity to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. 3MT is not designed to trivialize or "dumb-down" research, but rather encourage students to consolidate their ideas and crystalize their research discoveries.

Normal Theater lit up at nightStudents are allowed to use one static slide, and no additional transitions, animation, video, or props. Presentations are all spoken word, and exclude songs and theatrical performances.

Normal Theater lit up at night


First place: $750
Second place: $500
People's choice: $750

The first place winner will be entered in the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools competition in March. In the event the first place winner is unable to attend, the second place winner will attend. Prizes are taxable.

Who can compete?

Any Illinois State master's or doctoral student enrolled during the current academic year is eligible. The 10 university finalists must submit an advisor consent form.


Each college selects a winner(s). Colleges have the choice to run their own heats or nominate students. For information about your college's competition, contact your college research coordinator:

Ten finalists will compete at the Normal Theater, February 29, 2024. For information about the university wide competition, contact Dana Davidson.


  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or movement of any description; the slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration.
  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).
  • Presentations are to commence from the stage.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through movement or speech.
  • The decision of the judging panel is final.

Judging criteria

Comprehension and content

  • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background to the research question being addressed and its significance?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the key results of the research including conclusions and outcomes?
  • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
  • Was the thesis topic, key results and research significance and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
  • Did the speaker avoid scientific jargon, explain terminology and provide adequate background information to illustrate points?
  • 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 presentation 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 decision of the judging panel is final.


Milner Library has video recording equipment available to record your 3MT presentation. Milner also rents equipment.

3MT News

Blooming trees in front of Moulton Hall
Shelby Limbach, a graduate student in the School of Communication, received the People Choice Award at the 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition at the [...]
WGLT General Manager RC McBride served as emcee for the event.
This year, 11 contestants will compete and have the opportunity to share their research with all in attendance. Hear from each contestant and learn [...]
Normal Theatre, located in Uptown Normal, will again be hosting the Three Minute Thesis Competition.
The annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, February 23, at the Normal Theater located in Uptown Normal. The event [...]