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Three Minute Thesis

An 80,000-word thesis would take 9 hours to present. Your time limit...3 minutes.  Your prize...up to $1,000.

The Graduate School seeks contestants for our 6th annual Three Minute Thesis, which will take place virtually on December 2, 2020 at 12 p.m. This year’s competition will be held online.

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).

We’re currently in our online prelims phase. Stay tuned for announcements about the top 10 finalists and check out these videos of past winners and finalists:
2019 winners and finalists
2018 winners and finalists
2017 winners and finalist

You’re a finalist, now what?

  • All finalists should consult with members of the Professional Development Team to get tips on improving their slides and presentations. Calendar information for team members is listed below:
    Katie Homar
    Joe Aldinger
    Vanessa Doriott Anderson
    Chris Smith
  • Final videos and slides are due Nov. 4, 5 p.m. Submission information to come. Judges will review submissions and choose first- and second-place winners.
  • The Big Event. Tune in Dec. 2 at noon to watch the finalists’ videos unveiled for the first time. (Zoom link to come.) Participants will be able to vote in real time for the People’s Choice winner. All winners will be named in the live event.

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.

Past 3MT finalists are not eligible to compete.

Alumni are not eligible.

Video Production Resources

Here’s some basic video production tips:

  • shoot in landscape, not portrait
  • use a tripod or lean your camera against something steady when shooting your video
  • Light your subject and don’t shoot video with a bright light behind you (like a sunny window)
  • Try to angle the camera so it’s not looking up or down on you.
  • Avoid background noise when filming
  • Don’t wear clothes with patterns or clothes that will make you blend into the background color
  • Sign up for a technology consultation with the NC State Libraries for additional support.

Check out these resources from U of Calgary*, U of Guelph*, U of British Columbia* and U of Alberta* for more video-making tips.

Check out these sample virtual 3MT videos from U of Waterloo and U Calgary.

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 PowerPoint must be NC State brand. Click here for template.
  • No additional embedded 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 considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.


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?

U of Guelph resource credit: Johan Torres, Digital Content Designer, University of Guelph

U of Calgary resource credit: UCalgary Virtual 3 Minute Thesis – Presentation Tips. Tara Christie, PhD. Manager, My GradSkills. University of Calgary. Member of GPDN.

U of British Columbia Resource credit: Jacqui Brinkman, UBC Studios, University of British Columbia

Thanks to our colleagues at UAlberta and “Jeff Allen Productions” for the resource on lighting tips!