22 The 3 Minute Thesis

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This chapter will provide an overview of the 3 Minute Thesis oral presentation format.

Sections in this chapter

What is it?

The three-minute thesis (3MT) is a new format of research presentation that builds on the classic “elevator pitch”. The challenge in this type of presentation is to explain your research to an intelligent non-specialist audience in under 3 minutes with limited visual aids. Often there are specific rules for the visual aid: a single 4:3 slide, no animations or video, and no props.

For a successful 3MT talk, you need to follow completely different rules from normal scientific presentations. You can skip common things like introducing yourself, thanking all your lab mates and colleagues, or funding. You typically don’t show data unless it is presented in a very simple figure.

Because of the challenge involved with presenting years of detailed research in only three minutes, Universities hold cross-faculty 3MT competitions. The first was founded by the University of Queensland, Australia, where you can find many great resources and videos.

3MT Tips

The tips below were adapted from “10 Hints for Improving Presentations for the Three Minute Thesis” by Danielle Fischer at Charles Darwin University (Full PDF here):

  1. Don’t introduce yourself, don’t do acknowledgements, don’t show data.
  2. Start by introducing how your research relates to the bigger picture. Try to think of why any person might be interested in your work.
  3. Only include relevant things on your slide and make sure images are good quality. Carefully design your slide, don’t overcrowd it or use too much colour.
  4. Use simple and familiar analogies.
  5. Speak with an excited and engaged manner.
  6. Don’t wear anything distracting.
  7. Use body language: smiling, gestures, movement, and eye-contact.
  8. Finish by bringing the audience back to the big picture.
  9. Practice and get feedback from a wide variety of people.
  10. Use your time, but don’t go over it.


These are some 3MT slides made by previous CHEM 803 students.

3MT Example 1

3MT Example 2

3MT Example 3


There are many resources online about preparing a 3MT presentation. Below are some links to helpful videos, award-winning 3MT talks, and the many resources provided by Queen’s University.

Helpful Videos

These videos were prepared by are owned by Australian National University.

3MT: three tips to help you prepare a winning presentation

3MT: the three most common mistakes

Award-winning 3MT

These are videos of some award-winning 3MT talks. The first one has the best title,  it’s simple and concise!

Check out the Queen’s University 2020 Competition results, where you’ll find two award-winning 3MT talks from our Chemistry Department by Morgan Lehtinen and Alastair Kierulf. [In the video at this link, click “Playlist” to find their talks]


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Principles of Scientific Communication Copyright © 2020 by Amanda Bongers and Donal Macartney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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