Birmingham Three Minute Thesis

  3MT banner 2014


The average PhD thesis would take nine hours to present.

You have... three minutes


Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, in which doctoral researchers have just three minutes to deliver an engaging presentation on their thesis topic, its originality and its significance.

With universities across the world now holding their own 3MT competitions, we are delighted to be running a University of Birmingham 3MT and to invite our own doctoral researchers to participate in such a highly-regarded competition.

If you are a current doctoral researcher interested in developing your presentation and research communication skills, raising the profile of your research and having the chance to win an international research bursary, we warmly encourage you to take part.

To register to take part in the 2014 Birmingham Three Minute Thesis Competition, please follow this link and complete the form.

 About Birmingham 3MT

If you enter the competition, you will be invited to take part in a 'heat' with other entrants from your College; the top two presenters from each College 'heat' will be selected to compete in the final. In 2014, heats took place in May and the final was held on Wednesday 11 June.

The competition will give you the opportunity to compete for a place in the first nationwide UK 3MT contest. The winner of the Birmingham competition will go forward to the UK-wide 3MT semi-final, and to compete for one of six places in the UK final at the Vitae Annual Conference.

The Birmingham winner will also go through to the Universitas 21 virtual 3MT final which will be judged at the end of October. The final will include research students from across the globe and will take place virtually via video entries.

 Rules and regulations

  To enter the Birmingham 3MT competition, you must:

  • Be currently registered on a doctoral programme at the University of Birmingham. This includes students who have submitted their thesis and are awaiting their viva
  • Be available for your College heat and the Birmingham final
  • Be available, if successful, to attend the UK-wide semi-final on 14 July (and again, if successful, the final on 9 September)
  • Agree to your presentation being videoed (if appropriate)

The rules for your 3MT presentation are as follows:

  • Your 3MT presentation should be based on research that is directly related to your doctoral thesis
  • You should present in a style suitable for an intelligent but non-expert audience
  • ALL presentations should be NO LONGER than three minutes; competitors exceeding three minutes will be disqualified
  • You will be allowed one single and static PowerPoint slide to support your presentation (slide transitions or animations are NOT allowed)
  • No additional electronic media (such as sound or video) are allowed
  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted
  • No notes are permitted
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (no poems or songs)
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final

 How to enter

Registration for the 2014 Birmingham Three Minute Thesis Competition is now closed. (Deadline 5pm, Wednesday 7 May).

 Key dates

3MT Training sessions: Friday 9 May

2014 Birmingham 3MT heats (all held in Arts Main Lecture Theatre):

  • College of Arts and Law: Monday 19 May, 10am
  • College of Engineering and Physical Sciences: Monday 19 May, 1pm
  • College of Social Sciences: Monday 19 May, 3pm
  • College of Life and Environmental Sciences: Tuesday 20 May, 10am
  • College of Medical and Dental Sciences: Tuesday 20 May, 1pm

Birmingham 3MT final: Wednesday 11 June 2014

Closing date for winner to register for UK semi-final: 16 June 2014

UK-wide 3MT semi-final: 14 July 2014

UK-wide final: 9 September 2014

Deadline for Birmingham 3MT winner to submit video entry for U21 final: 3 October 2014

U21 competition judged: 28 October 2014

 The prizes

Birmingham 3MT 2014 Winner's Prize: £1,000 research travel bursary

U21 overall first prize: Travel bursary to a fellow U21 institution to the value of $2,500

 Support in preparing your 3MT

3MT is all about effectively communicating the originality and importance of your research in three minutes to an intelligent but non-expert lay audience. You should therefore avoid dense information or specialised jargon, but instead distil your ideas in order to guide the audience through your work and leave a lasting impression.

Meanwhile, here are some top tips:

  • Attend a 3MT training session
  • Be enthusiastic and show your passion for your subject
  • Help the audience relate to your research by emphasising its relevance and any real-world applications or examples
  • Speak clearly and don’t rush... if you tend to speed up when nervous, check yourself on this
  • Time yourself and practice keeping within the three minute limit
  • A comfortable speed of delivery for oral presentation is approximately 80 words per minute. You should therefore be aiming for approximately 200 -250 written words for your three-minute summary
  • To structure your presentation, think about why you are researching your chosen topic or issue, how you are going about your research and how your work can be applied to the real world
  • Watch yourself in the mirror or record yourself using a camera phone so you can check your presentational style 
  • Address your audience directly: don’t look down!
  • Try to be natural and appear relaxed... Don’t move around too much (actions such as swaying can be distracting) but don’t appear static or rigid
  • Practice in front of friends who do not study in your area to ensure that your presentation is appropriate for a non-expert audience; if there are things they don’t understand, think about how you could express them more simply or clearly
  • Learn from previous winners by typing ‘three minute thesis winners’ into YouTube and watching the filmed presentations of past entrants

Presentations will be judged according to the following criteria:

Comprehension & 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 & 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?

Simon Clews from the University of Melbourne has prepared helpful guidelines for Making the Most of Your Three Minutes.

Inger Mewburn (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, RMIT) has developed a presentation about the 3MT.

 Example 3MTs

In the video below, 2011 Trans-Tasman 3MT winner Matthew Thompson from the University of Queensland shows us how 3MT is done.



 Our finalists and winners

Birmingham 3MT 2014 winner: Chris Morgan (School of Biosciences)


Other Birmingham 3MT 2014 finalists:

  • Yang Bai (Metallurgy and Materials)



  • Borut Fonda (Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences)
  • Simon Franklin (Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences)
  • Jesvir Mahil (School of Education)
  • Beverley Maynard (School of Education)
  • Rizwan Mustafa (Department of Theology and Religion)
  • Grace Richmond (School of Immunity and Infection)
  • Chrissie Tock (Chemical Engineering)
  • Martine Van Driel (English Language and Applied Linguistics)

Well done to all our finalists and everyone who took part!


Please direct any questions about the Birmingham 3MT competition to Dr Holly Prescott:

Any specific questions about the Universitas 21 virtual 3MT final should be sent to Dr Gemma Marakas:



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