Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition originally developed by The University of Queensland in 2008, and now has been widely adopted at universities around the world. The exercise challenges masters and doctoral students to present a compelling talk on their Thesis/Dissertation topic and its significance. Many theses and dissertations can be over 80,000 words and take hours to present, but students in this competition have just three minutes and one slide to convey their often highly-technical research to a lay audience.
Presentations are judged by two main criteria: comprehension/content and engagement. Did the presentation help the audience (who may have no background at all in the research area) understand the topic? Did the method of presentation make the audience want to know more?
3MT® and UT
The UT academic colleges and the Graduate School are collaborating to bring the 3MT® experience to our university. In 2018, the colleges submitted 36 participants to a series of semi-final competitions. Twelve finalists were chosen to compete in a final competition that took place on April 6, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. in Hollingsworth Auditorium. This was one of the capstone events of Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week. Anyone preparing a master’s thesis, doctoral dissertation, or who play a major role in research-based projects (including case studies) was eligible to apply and be selected to participate.
The rules of the competition, based on those from the 3MT® organization are as follows:
- A single static image or slide is permitted (no slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description, 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 movement or speech.
- The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.
One practical reason is that winners will receive a monetary award. However, participants will also develop valuable skills that will serve them in the future. Researchers are often called upon to explain their research to a lay audience, perhaps in order to gain funding, and being able to clearly and engagingly make their case can set them apart from their competitors. Another reason is to engage with the public to help develop support for the work that is done on university campuses. Besides, wouldn’t you like to be able to explain to your family and friends what exactly it is that you do?