The University of Iowa

Hosting a Departmental 3MT

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) challenges graduate students to communicate their research in three minutes or less in non-specialist language. Contestants represent a diverse array of disciplines and areas of study, and they reflect the passion and thirst for discovery common among all of Iowa's graduate students.

See the 3MT home page for information on the cross-campus competition. 

Why should you host a 3MT?

The ability to clearly and concisely articulate complex research to non-specialist audiences is a vital skill for all graduate students. Participating in the Graduate College’s public scholarship competitions helps students develop communication skills, allowing them to share and take pride in their work. It also is a great way to reward students for engaging their research in new ways.

These competitions also make great additions to your recruiting events! Hosting 3MT during prospective visit days or events is a great way to show off your department and research being done.

Hosting a competition in your department is also a way to ensure your discipline is represented in the Graduate College’s final competition held in November.

Suggested Timeline:

The Graduate College hosts its 3MT competition as well as preparatory workshops each fall semester. The Fall 2020 deadline to register for 3MT is October 5th, with workshops scheduled for 9/11, 9/18, 9/25 & 10/2. Following this schedule will allow interested students to then register for the interdisciplinary competition. 


Connecting to the Interdisciplinary competition:

As an additional incentive, the Graduate College is also offering students who win competitions hosted by our campus partners the opportunity to be nominated directly to the final competition (held in November). The winner of the final competition receives a cash prize, and an opportunity to represent the University of Iowa at the MAGS regional competition. All students are welcome to participate in the general preliminary for a chance to go to the finals.

Eligibility & progression:

To compete in the Graduate College’s competition, participants must be currently enrolled in a Masters or PhD degree program that requires the student to conduct their own research.

Competition Rules:

The standard rules for 3MT competitions are as follows:

  1. A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No animations, transitions, or sound effects.
  2. No additional media or props. No laser pointers.
  3. Presentations are limited to 3 minutes.
  4. Presentations are to be spoken word.
  5. Time starts when a presenter begins speaking.
  6. The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Judging Criteria:

Winners should be determined by a panel of judges using criteria outlined by the official 3MT competition. For the Graduate College finals, judges will be invited from the University of Iowa faculty and staff, previous 3MT winners, and the local community. PDF & Qualtrics versions of the form are available by contacting

When selecting judges for your competition, the Graduate College suggests a panel of 3-5 individuals. It is also suggested that no more than one faculty member from the home department sit on the judging panel.

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 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?


PDF icon 3MT Example Run Sheet.pdf115.65 KB