3-Minute Thesis Competitions

Each year, the University of Tartu organises a 3-minute thesis competition for doctoral students. The event gives an opportunity to introduce one's research or a recent publication to the general public and other doctoral students either in Estonian or English.

Presentations will be recorded on the site. All participants will be offered the possibility of publishing either a text or a video based on their presentation. This way, exciting stories about research travel outside the walls of the university.

The best three presenters in Estonian will have an opportunity to represent the university at the Estonian Academy of Science competition “Science in Three Minutes“.

The best presenter in English will have the opportunity to represent the university at the international Coimbra Group 3-Minute Thesis competition.

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To whom and how?

Participants: all doctoral students (incl. on academic leave), external doctoral students and recent PhDs who have defended their thesis during the last year. Register by 4 November!

Preparation: to participate in the competition prepare a three-minute presentation in Estonian which summarizes the issue that prompted the research, the ways to solve it, and how and for whom it is important. NB! Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.

Evaluation: from all three-minute lectures, the jury selects the best. The best three will receive a cash prize and the opportunity to represent the university at the 3-minute thesis competition of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.

The Academy of Sciences competition will in turn reveal the top five, who will make a three-minute video clip, broadcasted on ETV. From the TV video lectures the viewers choose their favorite.

Participants: Only doctoral students with active status can participate. Register by 4 November.

Preparation: To participate in the competition, prepare a captivating three-minute presentation summarising the problem that is driving your research, the ways to solve it, its importance and impact.

At the event: Give your presentation in front of the jury. All presentations will be video recorded. 

Evaluation: Three best presentations are selected. The authors of these presentations will receive a cash prize. The video recording of the winning presentation will be sent to the Coimbra Group’s international 3-Minute Thesis competition. 

Rules for presentations

  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or 'movement' of any description are allowed. The slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration.
  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).
  • Presentations are to commence from the stage.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Comprehension and content

  • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background and significance to the research question being addressed, while explaining terminology and avoiding jargon?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the impact and/or results of the research, including conclusions and outcomes?
  • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
  • Was the thesis topic, research significance, results/impact and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
  • 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 and 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?
  • In three minutes, an average narrator is able to utter about 300 words. This is approximately 2600 characters and fits on one A4 page.
  • It is recommended that you prepare the presentation carefully, and practice it repeatedly in front of the mirror.
  • Avoid using foreign words or specific terms because, according to Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you probably don’t understand it yourself”.

Speak to your audience

  • Avoid jargon and academic language.
  • Explain concepts and people important to your research – you may know all about the field but your audience may not.
  • Highlight the outcomes of your research, and the desired outcome.
  • Imagine that you are explaining your research to a close friend or fellow student from another field.
  • Convey your excitement and enthusiasm for your subject.

Tell a story

  • You may like to present your 3MT as a narrative, with a beginning, middle and end.
  • It’s not easy to condense your research into three minutes, so you may find it easier to break your presentation down into smaller sections.
  • Try writing an opener to catch the attention of the audience, then highlight your different points, and finally have a summary to restate the importance of your work.

Have a clear outcome in mind

  • Know what you want your audience to take away from your presentation.
  • Try to leave the audience with an understanding of what you’re doing, why it is important, and what you hope to achieve.


  • Improve your 3MT presentation by reading it aloud, to yourself and to an audience of friends and family.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Ask your audience if your presentation clearly highlights what your research is about and why it is important.

Coimbra group competition

Competitions thoroughout the years, including video recordings

Jason Mario Dydynski (UT PhD student), second prize at the Coimbra Group 3MT competition in 2018.


University of Tartu competitions in 2020–2021, video clips 



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