Three Minute Thesis

3MT Finals
April 10, 2019
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
UWM campus in the Wisconsin Room of the Student Union
2200 East Kenwood Blvd
Milwaukee, WI

What is the Three Minute Thesis (3MT)?

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Graduate School, Office of Research, and UWM Research Foundation, are sponsoring their 2nd Annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) event. Developed by The University of Queensland, 3MT has been adopted in 66 countries and cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills. This unique academic competition is open to all doctoral students and students in a terminal master’s degree program (Master of Fine Arts degree) currently working on a dissertation or thesis. The competition supports graduate students’ capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

UWM doctoral students

Why should I participate in 3MT?


Awards and recognition

Finalists will deliver their presentations on April 10th, 2019 from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm at a UWM campus location to be determined. Participants will be judged by a panel of judges competing for the following awards:
  • 1st place (gold) $1500
  • 2nd place (silver) $1000
  • 3rd place (bronze) $500

Eligibility and Participation

  • Participants must be enrolled in a UWM doctoral program or terminal master’s program (Master of Fine Arts degree)
  • Participants must compete in a preliminary qualifying round
  • Finalists are chosen by the judges to compete in the final round

Participant Resources

If you are participating in the competition, the resources below will provide helpful information to guide you in preparing your presentation and we highly recommend reviewing them and the video link below before you attend a workshop.
Competition Rules and Judging


  • 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.
  • 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 either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating 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 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?
Drafting your presentation

Write For Your Audience

  • 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 desired outcome.
  • Imagine that you are explaining your research to a close friend or fellow student from another field.
  • Convey your excitement and enthusiasm for your subject.

Tell a Story

  • You may like to present your 3MT as a narrative, with a beginning, middle and 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 the attention of the audience, 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.
  • Try to leave the audience with an understanding of what you’re doing, why it is important, and what you hope to achieve.


  • Proof your 3MT presentation by reading it aloud, to yourself and to an audience of friends and family.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Ask your audience if your presentation clearly highlights what your research is about and why it is important.
Preparing for your presentation

Slide Rules and Tips

Before you start work on your slide, you should take the following rules into account:
  • One single static PowerPoint slide is permitted;
  • No slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description are permitted;
  • Your slide is to be presented from the beginning of your oration; and
  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.

Slide Suggestions

  • Less is more: text and complicated graphics can distract your audience – you don’t want them to read your slide instead of listening 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 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?
  • An engaging visual presentation can make or break any oration, so make sure your slide is legible, clear and concise.

Presentation Tips

Practice, practice, practice
  • Feeling nervous before you present is natural, and a little nervousness can even be beneficial to your overall speech. Nonetheless, it is important to practice so you can present with confidence and clarity. Practicing will also help you gauge the timing of your 3MT so that you keep within the time limit.

    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 move around the stage. It is okay to move around energetically if that is your personality,
  • however it is also appropriate for a 3MT presentation to be delivered from a single spot on stage.
  • 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.

    Record yourself

  • Record and listen to your presentation to hear where you pause, speak too quickly or get it just right.
  • Then work on your weaknesses and exploit your strengths.

    Look to the stars!

  • Watch your role models such as academics, politicians and journalists, and break down their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Analyise how they engage with their audience.
  • View presentations by previous 3MT finalists.


  • 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. It is important that you feel comfortable so you can focus on your presentation.
  • If you are presenting on a stage that has a wooden floor, be aware of the noise your footwear might make.
  • Do not wear a costume of any kind as this is against the rules (as is the use of props).
For more ideas of what the competition may look like, watch the Three Minute Thesis presentations below from UWM’s 2018 3MT competition.

Thank you to the graduate students that participated and made last year’s event possible. Thank you also to our faculty judges from our qualifying rounds: Janis Eells, Tim Ehlinger, Aims McGuinness, Liam Callanan, David Pate Jr., Daâd Saffarini, Jon Welstead, Bernard Perley, along with our judges from the community: Patti Keating-Kahn, Kathryn Hein, and John Miller. And a special acknowledgement of our distinguished 3MT finals judges: Raul Galvan, Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Kira Lafond, and Daniel Riemer.

For more information about the 3MT®, contact Steve Strehlow at