Rules & Judging


Any student who is active in an SFU master's or PhD program will be eligible to participate in SFU's 3MT competition. Alumni are not eligible.

  • Students with their thesis under submission are eligible.
    Even if you have already defended in the Spring term, you may still compete until the final thesis submission deadline at the end of April.
  • Students in Non-Thesis programs are eligible to compete at SFU. While the international 3MT rules exclude our non-thesis grad students, we will be including all of our graduate students in our university-level competition. However, non-thesis students are not able to compete at the Western Regional and the National 3MT Competitions. (The top SFU thesis-based student finalist will proceed to those events.)

Timing of Degree Completion
Competitors who are eligible on the date of their first presentation shall remain so, irrespective of subsequent changes to their status.

Your presentation should be directly related to your graduate program research and thesis/dissertation. Your research does not have to be completed.

Representation at Subsequent Heats
Please note that the winners of each heat or final are expected to represent their faculties at the next stage of the competition. If a winner is unable to attend the final, the runner-up will proceed to the next round of the competition in his or her place.

Note: Departmental heats are considered practice heats. All competitors in departmental heats are eligible to participate in their Faculty-level heats.

Wildcard Final
There will be a People’s Choice winner from each Faculty Final. The People's Choice winners will proceed to the Final to compete for the top prizes. At the final, the audience will select another People's Choice winner.


  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted (no slide transitions, animations or 'movement' of any description, 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 (eg. 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 movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Judging Criteria

At every level of the competition each competitor will be judged on the three judging criteria listed below. Please note that each criterion is equally weighted and is geared towards audience impact.


  • Did the presentation help the audience understand the research?
  • Did the presenter clearly outline the nature and aims of the research?
  • Did the presenter show why the research is significant?
  • Did the presentation follow a logical sequence?


  • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?
  • Was the presenter careful not to trivialise or dumb down their research?
  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their work?
  • Did the presenter capture and maintain the audience's attention?

Communication style

  • 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 speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace; and have a confident stance?
  • Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation? Or did they elaborate too long on one aspect or was the presentation rushed?
  • Did the PowerPoint slide enhance the presentation? Was it clear, legible and concise?

Three Minute Thesis – 2018 SFU Finals 

Watch the videos from the SFU Finals

First Place and People's Choice Winner: 

  • Danielle Hoefele, Biological Sciences master’s student: European fire ant foraging and communication

Second Place Winner:

  • Brea McCauley, Archaeology master's student: Ritualized Finger Amputation in the Classic Maya

Danielle will compete at the Western Regional Competition at the University of Regina on April 27, 2018. Good luck, Danielle!

All of the presentations were informative and interesting. Thank you to all who competed this year, including:

  • Alison Butler, Public Policy master's student: Room to grow: Building better rental stock for Vancouver families
  • Allison Carter, Health Sciences doctoral student: Desires embraced: A critical analysis of sex, love, and relationships among women living with HIV
  • Shaun Fickling, Engineering Science doctoral student: Brain vital signs after concussions
  • Ankit Gupta, Interactive Arts and Technology doctoral student: How can wearable technology support self-management of Arthritis?
  • Michelle La, Sociology & Antrhopology master's student: Sneakerheads and their practices of trading
  • Gioachino Roberti, Earth Sciences doctoral student: Volcanoes in a changing climate
  • April Wang, Computing Sciences master’s student: How modern learning resources fail conversational programmers
  • Matthea Wiebe, Archaeology master's student: Exploring Neanderthal Fire-Starting technologies through microarchaeology