The Effective Thesis Exceptional Research Award

We will not be running the Exceptional Research Award in 2023.

Effective Thesis Exceptional Research Award

This award has been established to encourage and recognize promising research by students that has the potential to significantly improve the world. 

Submit your thesis, dissertation, or capstone to the Effective Thesis Exceptional Research Award competition today to see your work recognised by an international programme, judged by professional academics from the world’s top universities, and join a network of fellow prospective researchers delivering top research in your chosen field.


The Exceptional Research Award is awarded annually for the best thesis, dissertation or capstone paper that has great potential to significantly improve the world. In awarding this prize we think of Norman E. Borlaug. In 1937, he was a young student of forestry. One day he attended a lecture that ended with the claim that work on disease-resistant crops could “go further than has ever been possible to eradicate the miseries of hunger and starvation from this earth,” and inspired him to switch over into plant pathology to address the important problem of food security. There, his work on disease-resistant wheat varieties kicked off a wave of agricultural improvements called the ‘Green Revolution’. These improvements are estimated to have saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people who would otherwise have died from starvation. Dr. Borlaug’s story shows the incredible potential that well-targeted research has to change the world.

By awarding this prize, Effective Thesis aims to recognise and encourage ambitious students who aim to utilise the power of well-targeted research to significantly improve the world.


The Prize

The award has two tiers – undergraduate and graduate. Submissions are judged by a panel of professional academics from the world’s top universities. The winning submissions each year will receive $1000 and will be featured on the Effective Thesis website. Aside from the main prize, several commendation prizes will be awarded and receive $100. The number of awards will depend on the quality of the applications we receive.



Submissions can consist of theses, dissertations, or capstone papers at the undergraduate or graduate level. Other substantive work forming part of a graduation semester may also be considered. To be eligible, submissions must have been produced in the academic year 2021 – 2022 and relate to one or multiple research directions prioritised by Effective Thesis. See the list of research directions below or see here for more information.

  • Biosecurity and risks from engineered pathogens
  • Artificial Intelligence Safety
  • Other Global Catastrophic and Existential Risks
  • Animal welfare and sentience
  • Understanding progress and change
  • Global health and wellbeing
  • Understanding and improving decision-making processes
  • Global priorities research

For a better understanding of what topics and research questions might fit these research directions and to get help in choosing your topic accordingly, you can take a look at our topic inspiration page and apply for our coaching. We also provide some additional help with choosing your supervisor and notifying you about relevant research-related opportunities.

We accept entries from all countries. All entries have to be submitted in English, however, they may be translated if not originally written in English. We would encourage students to not spend excessive time on translation as translated works will not be judged harshly on matters of grammar and style.


Selection Criteria and Process

To succeed, your research must be of high quality, ideally bringing a novel contribution, and make as much progress as possible towards solving some problem described within our prioritised research directions. That being said, we place emphasis on how well the research questions were chosen and how well the work was done rather than the direct measurable impact of the written work. We aim to reward good work rather than good results, therefore we also welcome “failed attempts” (e.g. negative results, etc..), as long as they have been carefully conducted.

Submissions will be pre-screened for relevance and eligibility by our internal team and then scored in quality, novelty and progress towards solving some problem described in our prioritised research directions through a double blind review process. Reviews will be conducted by relevant researchers from our network of domain experts.

To see examples of some of the work we consider promising, see our finished theses page.



Submission Deadline: September 1st, 2022

Entries have to be submitted no later than September 1st 2022. Your submission should include the following:

  • A cover page that includes your name and contact details, the title of the work which you are submitting, the prioritised research direction(s) it relates to, your study programme, the date on which the work was accepted in this programme, and the name of the university.
  • A 300-word maximum description of why you believe your research could contribute to significantly improving the world.
  • The thesis, dissertation or capstone paper you wish to submit. For bachelor’s and master’s level you can submit your whole thesis, while for the PhD level please submit just one chapter of your dissertation or other relevant research piece. Typical submissions are in the range of 5000-15000 words in length, but we may make exceptions.

Please message [email protected] for any inquiries about the award.

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