Three Minute Thesis

The idea for the 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.

The first 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2008 with 160 Research Higher Degree students competing. In 2009 and 2010 the 3MT competition was promoted to other Australian and New Zealand universities and enthusiasm for the concept grew. Due to its adoption in numerous universities, a multi-national event was developed, and the Inaugural Trans-Tasman 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2010. Since 2011, the popularity of the competition has increased and 3MT competitions are now held in over 350 universities across 59 countries worldwide. 2016 brought an expansion of the Trans-Tasman 3MT competition to include a select number of Asian universities. The competition is now called the Asia-Pacific 3MT competition. VUW held its first 3MT competition in 2010 and it has continued as a popular annual event within the postgraduate community, hosted by the Postgraduate Students’ Association.

What is it?

The 3MT is an exercise in developing academic and research communication skills. All currently enrolled postgraduate students may enter the VUW competition.  Participants will have three minutes (and one power point slide) to give an engaging and dynamic talk on their thesis topic and its significance in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience.

What it is not

It is not an exercise in trivialising or dumbing-down research.  The talk should engage the audience without reducing research to entertainment value only.


Anyone who is a currently enrolled postgraduate student can enter the Victoria University of Wellington 3 Minute Thesis Competition.  However, only a Doctoral student (active PhD and Professional Doctorate (Research) candidates who have successfully passed their confirmation milestone will be able to represent VUW at the Asia-Pacific Competition in Australia.  Students who submit their thesis for examination before the Asia-Pacific Final will remain eligible to compete. Additional information is available at:  Finalists will be required to agree to media exposure for their presentation and research. During the course of the competition there will be video recording and photographs taken of participants for use in promotional material.

Why do it?

The 3MT competition supports a common Graduate Attribute for research degree candidates: the capacity to communicate ideas effectively to a range of audiences.


1st prize: $3000  (and travel to the Asia-Pacific Grand Final for highest ranking PhD winner)
2nd prize: $1000
3rd prize: $500
Vic International prize: $250
People’s Choice Award: trophy
Honours Prize: $250
Faculty round prizes (per room): $200  Runner-up prizes: $50


VUW 3MT Competition Dates 2018:

Science/Engineering/Architecture & Design – Monday 6 August, midday,  SUB 217/218/219/220/, Kelburn campus
FHSS/Education/Health – Wednesday 8 August, midday, SUB 217/218/220, Kelburn campus
Commerce/Law – Friday 10 August, 10am & 1pm GB340,  Pipitea Campus

FINAL – Friday 17 August, midday, Hunter Council Chambers, Kelburn Campus

ASIA-PACIFIC COMPETITION – Thursday 27 September 2018, University of Queensland, Brisbane. For more info:

2018 VUW 3MT Winners: 

The 2018  3 Minute Thesis Masters Inter-University Challenge was hosted by Victoria University on Thursday 24th August 2017.  Master’s students represented their universities and present their research.  Please refer to the Rules for requirements of this competition.  Entries were open to research masters students who are currently enrolled in a research project of 90 points or more.  The highest ranked Masters student from the VUW 3MT competition represented Victoria.

First – Saskia Ymker
Second – Jasmine Chan-Hyam
Third – Zak Murray 
International Prize – Sonja Hummel  
People’s Choice Award – Jasmine Chan-Hyam
Honours Winner – Darryn Ooi 
Resilience & Sustainability Prize – Zak Murray

Jasmine represented VUW at the Asia-Pacific Final in Brisbane in September and Saskia represented VUW at the Inter-University Master’s 3MT Final, hosted by University of Canterbury in August.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists that took part.  Thank you to everyone who entered the competition during the faculty rounds and made it such a success.


Judging Criteria

Entrants present a compelling three minute oration on their thesis topic and its significance in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience.
Each of the three judging criteria has equal weight & the judges’ decision is final.

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 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?


  • 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.