The Hub AU’s 2021 Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition

AU’s 2021 Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition

An 80,000 word thesis would take nine hours to present.

Your time limit… three minutes!

Do you have what it takes?

We’d like to invite you to enter the 2021 Three Minute Thesis (3MT ®) competition, which will take place virtually on March 16, 2021.

AU’s Research Centre is sponsoring CASH prizes for the top three AU winners.

  • 1st place award: $1,000
  • 2nd place award: $500
  • 3rd place award: $250

The first-place winner will also get to compete at the Western Regional Competition, which AU is hosting in spring 2021.

So what is the 3MT®?

Founded by The University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008, the competition cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills. Presenting in a 3MT competition increases their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. Competitors are allowed one PowerPoint slide, but no other resources or props.

Some history on the 3MT®

The idea for the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition came about at a time when the state of Queensland was suffering severe drought. To conserve water, residents were encouraged to time their showers, and many people had a three minute egg timer fixed to the wall in their bathroom. The then Dean of the UQ Graduate School, Emeritus Professor Alan Lawson, put two and two together and the idea for the 3MT competition was born.

2008 The first 3MT competition was held at UQ with 160 Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates competing.
2009 The 3MT competition was promoted to other Australian and New Zealand universities and enthusiasm for the concept grew.
2010 A multi- national event was developed, and the Inaugural Trans- Tasman 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2010.
2013 The first Universitas 21 (U21) 3MT Competition was held with several universities from around the world competing in a virtual competition.
2016 3MT bought about an expansion of the Trans-Tasman 3MT competition to include universities from South-East and North Asia regions. The competition since then has been called the Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition and is hosted annually by UQ.
Now 3MT is held in over 600 universities across more than 65 countries worldwide.

Why should I compete in the 3MT®?

There are many benefits to competing in a 3MT ® competition. Some of these benefits include:

  • Sharing your research with the public
  • Learning how to frame your thesis topic
  • Generating an easy to understand statement for scholarships
  • Getting your name known
  • Developing presentation skills
  • Having a ‘pitch’ ready for a job interview
  • Meeting other people who are part of the larger research community
  • Being part of a research community who is having impact
  • Building your resume/CV
  • Monetary prizes


Any graduate student in good academic standing that has a research component in their studies (includes course, project, or thesis-based) is eligible to compete.

You are not eligible if:

  • You have graduated
  • You are a visiting student

A student whose thesis is under submission on the date of their first competition is still eligible to compete.

Full details can be found on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.


  • 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.
  • Student must be visible via webcam throughout the duration of their 3MT.
  • 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 considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Judging panel

What are our judges are looking for?

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 strong 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?

Competitor resources

Registration Information

Complete the registration form here.

Filed Under:
  • January 26, 2021