3MT Competition Guidelines


On March 31, 2021, the College of Graduate Studies and Research will host an all-virtual  "Three-Minute Thesis" (3MT) Competition for students enrolled in graduate programs through Radford University (main campus, RUC, RHEC, SVHEC).

In a 3MT Competition, contestants have three minutes to describe their original research, creative work, or capstone experience sponsored by their academic programs of study.  Aided by a single PowerPoint slide, participants compete to see who can best communicate their work and its significance to a non-specialist (layperson) audience.

For this year's all-virtual format, competitors will submit their three-minute presentations for judging consideration as a pre-recorded video; videos must be recorded in one take. Submissions will be evaluated based on the delivery and communication of the content and not the quality of the video.

Graduate students interested in participating must submit an application online by February 24, 2021. Consult the complete competition guidelines below before beginning the application.


Radford graduate students (main campus, RUC, RHEC, SVHEC) are eligible to participate in the 3MT competition if they are doing at least one of the following:

  • developing original research work for a thesis, dissertation, academic/professional conference, or project within a course
  • producing creative work for a thesis, performance, or installation 
  • participating in a capstone experience, such an an internship or clinical/professional practicum

Students can present on research, projects, and capstone experiences that are are at any stage of development (e.g., planning and development, mid-project, or final stages). Additionally, participants must be in good academic standing with the university at the time of the competition.

Competition Rules

All universities that host a virtual 3MT Competition agree to abide by a common set of rules. Presentations submitted for judging consideration must abide by the following guidelines:

  • Presentations can be no longer than 3 minutes.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through speech. (Timing does not include the 3MT title slide and commences from when the competitor starts speaking, not the start of the video).
  • Videos must meet the following criteria:
  • Filmed on the horizontal;
  • Filmed on a plain background;
  • Filmed from a static position;
  • Filmed from one camera angle;
  • Contain a 3MT title slide;
  • Contain a 3MT PowerPoint slide 
  • A single static slide is permitted in the presentation (no slide transitions, animations or "movement" any kind). The slide can be visible continuously or "cut to," provided that the slide is shown, in total, for no more than 1 minute. 
  • The 3-minute audio must be continuous – no sound edits or breaks.
  • No additional props (e.g., costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment and animated backgrounds) are permitted within the recording.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g., no poems, rhymes, or songs).
  • No additional electronic media (e.g., sound and video files) is permitted within the video recording.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Competition Format

The 2021 3MT Competition at Radford will be conducted as an all-virtual event. In lieu of giving live talks, all participants will submit pre-recorded videos of their presentation for up to two rounds of judging consideration.


Three prizes will be awarded during an online awards ceremony on March 31, 2021. A panel of alumni, university supporters, and community members will award prizes for First Place ($500) and Runner Up ($300). Prior to the awards ceremony, finalists' videos will be posted online. Members of the university community will be invited view the finalists' videos and submit their vote for the People's Choice ($300) winner. 

Judging Criteria

3MT speakers and their presentations will be evaluated based on the criteria below.  Please note that the decision of the judges and audience is final. 

Comprehension and content

  • Does the presentation provide an appropriate level of background information, while explaining terminology and avoiding jargon?
  • Does the presentation clearly describe the impact and/or results of the research, creative work, or capstone experience, including conclusions, insights, and/or outcomes?
  • Does the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
  • Is the topic, significance, results/impact, and outcomes/insights communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
  • Does the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation - or do they elaborate for too long on one aspect or is the presentation rushed?

Engagement and communication

  • Does the presentation make the audience want to know more?
  • Is the presenter careful not to trivialize or generalize their research, creative work, or capstone experience?
  • Does the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research, creative work, or capstone experience?
  • Does the presenter capture and maintain their audience's attention?
  • Does the speaker engage and connect with the viewer? Does the speaker make direct eye contact with the viewer? Does the speaker maintain a steady speaking pace and project confident body language?
  • Does the PowerPoint slide enhance the presentation - is it clear, legible, and concise?

Application Process

Radford and Radford University Carilion graduate students interested in participating should complete the 3MT application online by February 24, 2021. 

Audition Video

A three-minute audition video is a required part of the application. Audition videos will not be shown during the competition itself and are not part of the final judging process. For this reason, they can be taken with webcams or cell phones. Audition videos can be submitted with or separately from the 3MT application. Contestants are urged to submit their online application as soon as possible, even if their audition video is not ready. However, all application materials must be received by the College of Graduate Studies and Research by February 24, 2021.

Consult the 3MT FAQ page for additional guidance on developing and submitting an audition video.

Selection of Finalists

Applicants invited to participate in the competition as finalists will be notified by March 3, 2021. To be eligible for the First Place, Runner Up, and People's Choice awards, finalists must submit a final, polished version of their recorded presentation by March  17, 2021.


The College of Graduate Studies and Research is committed to facilitating an inclusive event. If you are a person with a disability who anticipates needing accommodations to participate meaningfully in the competition, please contact the College of Graduate Studies and Research at cgsr@radford.edu.


If you have questions about the application process, please contact the College of Graduate Studies and Research at cgsr@radford.edu.