Three Minute Thesis

An 80,000 word Ph.D. thesis would take 9 hours to present. Your time limit… three minutes.  Your prize…up to $1,000!

The Graduate School seeks contestants for our 6th annual Three Minute Thesis, which will virtually take place on December 2, 2020. This year’s competition will be held online. More information will be posted soon.

Founded at the University of Queensland, 3MT® is your opportunity hone your capacity to effectively explain your research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. Participating in 3MT® will help you develop skills for teaching, pitching an idea to business investors or communicating your research to the media and policymakers.

Plus, cash prizes will be awarded to first-place ($1,000) and second-place winners ($750) and to a “People’s Choice” winner chosen by audience members ($500).

See videos and other information from past winners and finalists:
2018 winners and finalists
2017 winners and finalists
2016 winners and finalists
2015 winners and finalists

10 Contestants! 3 Minutes! Up to $1000!

How to Get Involved: Competitor Information


Active graduate students — both Ph.D. and master’s students — are eligible to compete in 3MT® at NC State.  We are looking for contestants who can speak about an independent research project that they are currently pursuing in their programs. For Ph.D. candidates, this could mean that you have completed preliminary or comprehensive exams and are in your dissertation phase. For master’s candidates, this means that you are in your second year of your program and have made significant progress on your research thesis. More successful 3MT® presenters have done enough research that they can speak about the goals of their project to a broad audience as well as explain the potential significance and/or applications of their work.

Alumni are not eligible.

3MT Competition Rules and Scoring

Presentation Requirements and Guidelines

  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description are allowed. The slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration.
  • The PowerPoint must be NC State brand. Click here for template.
  • 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 three minutes maximum, and competitors exceeding three 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 either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.
  • All competitors must be available for the required preliminary rounds, Oct. 8-10.


Click the links below for the official 3MT® Rubric.

  • 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?

  • 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?



Slide for 2015 NCSU winner; Haritha Malladi

Slide from 2015 finalist, Doreen McVeigh