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Theses come in different flavours: 1 year, 2 years, 4 years, and 3 minutes

Do you know what 3MT stands for?

You may have been seeing this acronym around campus lately and if you’ve been wondering, it stands for “The Three Minute Thesis Competition.” (Click here for the Queen’s School of Graduate Studies 3MT website).

3MT started in Australia at the University of Queensland in 2008. Since then, the competition has been spreading, first, to nearby universities in Australia and New Zealand, and later to universities in Japan, the UK, Austria, and Canada. Queen’s was the first Ontario university to hold a competition, which happened in 2012. Last year, Queen’s also challenged fellow universities in Ontario to hold their own competitions and then vie for the province-wide title.

So what’s the competition all about?

Grad students in Masters (including both thesis and project-based Masters) and doctoral programs distil their own research project down to a three-minute talk supported by only one static slide (so no animations or videos) in such a way that answers the questions what is it? and why does it matter? for a lay audience. All rounds of the competition are open for anyone to attend. The competitors enter themselves in a heat which is judged by a panel of non-specialist judges from the Kingston community. There is also a people’s choice award decided by audience votes. After heats, up to ten of the highest-ranking competitors then become finalists in the university-wide competition.

I had the opportunity to see a number of these presentations and talk to some of the competitors both this year and last. When I asked about why these students got involved and what they got out of the experience, invariably they said that they wanted to challenge themselves to communicate clearly and succinctly and to articulate the value of their research outside of the academy.

Got three minutes? Take a look at this talk by Psychology’s Mike Best, the winner of Queen’s 3MT 2014:

And here’s this year’s Ontario winner, the University of Toronto’s Daiva Nielsen:

So why would you want to enter the next 3MT? Well, there’s the fact that it gives you a reason and a format to get crystal clear on your research question and its wider importance. There’s also the opportunity to meet other fascinating people and learn about how they’re approaching their research. There’s exposure–it’s not unknown for 3MT competitors to attract media attention. And if you take a look at the feature image of Mike Best set for this post, you’ll notice there also might be a prize in it for you. Interested? See here for rules and regulations.

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3 comments on “Theses come in different flavours: 1 year, 2 years, 4 years, and 3 minutes
  1. Amanda says:

    I did 3MT the first year it was at Queen’s. Great experience and really makes you re-think your project in a more accessible and presentable way!

  2. Atif Atif says:

    I also did 3MT right around the start of my PhD, and wrote about my experiences here: http://mrepidemiology.com/2012/05/07/a-mr-epid-inar-3mt-the-three-minute-thesis-contest/

    It’s a great opportunity to really focus on your message and condensing your thesis down to the key issues.

  3. Colette says:

    The SGS via Expanding Horizons will have workshops next academic year to help you prepare for the 2015 3MT. Don’t forget this is just one way to promote you and your research. Why not give it a go.

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