The DPhil programme in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences provides an opportunity for students to pursue cutting edge research into the societal implications of the Internet.
As a doctoral student at the Oxford Internet Institute, you and your peers will address research questions from across the spectrum of disciplines, drawing on our multidisciplinary faculty and on the complementary strengths of your cohort of peers, who are building on literature from different disciplines to answer their research questions.
We are looking for academically excellent candidates who display the potential and enthusiasm necessary to perform research that will make a difference — to ask important questions and to adopt innovative methodologies and approaches for exploring those questions.
Our DPhil students research spans a wide range of topics, normally linked to one or more of our Research Labs, Groups and Research topics.
This system allows doctoral students to dig deeply into disciplinary questions in, for instance, politics or sociology, while also being able to place these questions into a broader picture of how the Internet can be theorized and researched.
Over the course the programme, you are expected to produce an important and original piece of scholarship that will make a significant contribution to the dynamic area of Internet research. On completion, you will have the qualities and transferable skills necessary to excel in teaching, research, policymaking or business.
Whilst every doctoral project will follow a unique path, broadly there are 3 stages:
- Formulating a Research Question: You will focus on developing your research questions, and research skills. All doctoral students are required to take two courses which give the necessary foundation for undertaking research in this multi-disciplinary field.
- Gathering Data: You will outline the structure of your thesis, this includes data gathering, and might include a period of fieldwork away from Oxford. Many students also use this time to start drafting journal articles, often in collaboration with their supervisors.
- Writing up your Thesis and submitting: You will concentrate on any final data gathering, and writing up the final chapters for submission of your thesis.
In addition to the formal requirements of the DPhil thesis, all doctoral students receive regular training in the key graduate skills necessary to support their research and future employment. These range from classes on specific tools or skills such as programming in Python or using content analysis software, to more generic training such as presentation skills, academic writing and peer review.
We also provide opportunities for DPhil students to gain teaching experience through mentored assistantship roles in some of the MSc courses. There are also opportunities for taking part in organising the annual student-run Connected Life conference dedicated to sparking exchange between disciplines and showcasing emerging Internet research.
On completion of the DPhil programme, it is expected that you will have developed your knowledge and understanding of:
- The application of one or more of the social sciences to a detailed study of the Internet and related information and communication technologies and their societal implications.
- Practices and technologies relevant to the Internet and related ICTs.
- Theories and techniques of social sciences research applicable to the field of information and communication and of emerging technologies in particular.
- Modes of communicating and applying research in the field of information and communication to such issues as the design of new technologies and the formation of
- The qualities and transferable skills necessary to excel in teaching, research, policymaking or business in your studied field, including abilities to design new technologies and to predict and analyse their impacts.
- Leading-edge research methods relevant to investigating emerging information and communication technologies in the social sciences.
How to Apply
All applications must be made through the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions site. Please ensure that you start the online application process as early as you can, to ensure plenty of time to complete your application. Only applications that are complete by the deadline can be considered by the admissions team.
- The full-time DPhil programme has one deadline in January.
- The part-time DPhil programme has two deadlines in January and March. Applications submitted for both deadlines are given equal consideration.
Whilst every doctoral project will follow a unique path, there are common milestones that every DPhil student must pass. The information below gives a broad indication of the general milestones, but all students are advised to discuss the timeline with their supervisor.
During the programme you will move through three different stages:
- Probationer Research Student (PRS)
- DPhil Status
- Confirmed DPhil Status
|Stage 1: Formulating a Research Question
||Stage 2: Gathering Data||Stage 3: Writing Up and Submission|
|Entry as Probationer Research Student||Transfer to DPhil Status||Confirmation of DPhil Status|
|Social Dynamics of the Internet||Thesis: gathering data||Thesis: writing up and submission|
|Digital Social Research: Methods Core|
|Digital Social Research: Statistics Core|
|Digital Social Research: Methods Option Papers|
|Thesis: formulating a research question|
* You can find detailed information on scheduling in the DPhil Graduate Studies handbook.
Stage 1 usually occurs in year 1 for full-time students and years 1 and 2 for on the part-time programme.
All doctoral students are required to take courses which give the necessary foundation for undertaking research in this multi-disciplinary field. Both courses must be passed in order to transfer from PRS to DPhil status.
If you come from a background outside the social sciences (eg in computer science), you may be asked to take appropriate courses in theory and methods offered by the OII or one of the University’s Social Science Division departments during your first year of doctoral studies. Likewise, if you are a social scientist without a mastery of ICTs, you may be asked to take appropriate courses in computer science, information engineering or related fields during your first year.
DPhil students are also welcome to take any of the OII MSc Option Papers, with the approval of their supervisor and the course provider.
In addition to these classes, students will be required to work on their thesis, and will meet regularly with their supervisor to this end. By the end of this stage, students will be expected to have formulated clear research questions and identified appropriate theoretical and methodological frameworks for addressing these questions.
Transfer of Status
As most students will enter the DPhil programme as Probationer Research Students (PRS), they will be expected to gather materials and draft a research proposal for transfer to DPhil Status between their third and fourth term in Oxford. Assuming the normal three-year programme, we expect students to complete the transfer interview by the end of their fourth term. Most students successfully transfer in the third term. Details of the Transfer of Status process can be found in the DPhil Graduate Studies Handbook [PDF].
Stage 2 usually occurs in year 2 for Full-time students and years 3 and 4 for students on the part-time programme.
This stage of the DPhil will normally be devoted to data gathering and mapping the outline structure of your thesis. However, students will also need to make significant progress in writing their thesis, drafting at least two chapters in preparation for the Confirmation of Status milestone. This may include a period of fieldwork away from Oxford. Many students also use this time to start drafting journal articles, often in collaboration with their supervisors.
Confirmation of Status
Confirmation of DPhil Status is an essential stage on the way to the doctorate and confirms that the student is capable of producing a thesis of the necessary standard and within an appropriate timescale. It is not possible to submit a thesis for examination until DPhil status has been confirmed: this applies to students who have transferred to the DPhil from an Oxford MLitt, MSc or MPhil as well as to those who enter as a PRS student.
The OII’s Graduate Studies Committee expects students to complete the confirmation interview by the end of the ninth term of study for full time students; and by the XX term of study for part-time students. Details of the Confirmation of Status process can be found in the DPhil Graduate Studies Handbook [PDF].
Stage 3 usually occurs in year 3 for Full-time students and years 5 and 6 for students on the part-time programme.
DPhil will concentrate on any final data gathering, and be writing up the final chapters for submission of the thesis. The thesis must be submitted within 12 terms (full-time) and 24 terms (part-time) from the date of admission as a graduate student. In special circumstances, you may apply for an extension of time through the Graduate Studies Committee. The maximum extension permitted is 6 terms, making 18 terms (full-time) 30 terms (part-time) of study in all.
Once the thesis has been submitted, two examiners are appointed and the examination by viva voce (an oral defence of the Thesis) is scheduled.
The following OII faculty members are eligible to supervise DPhil students. The supervision areas are intended as a guide only: please contact us if you would like to discuss a suitable supervisor.
- Dr Grant Blank (Digital divides, social networks, social media, trust, privacy, journalism, inequality, political participation, mobile, security)
- Dr Jonathan Bright (Big data, democracy, governance, government, journalism, open data, political participation, public management, public policy, security, social media, social networks, surveillance)
- Dr Kathryn Eccles (Digital humanities, crowdsourcing, cultural heritage, arts and cultural industries, education, impact, users, wellbeing, digital history, history, gender, sexism
- Prof Rebecca Eynon (Big data, digital divides, education, inequality, ethics, skills, learning and youth)
- Prof Luciano Floridi (Philosophy, activism, big data, censorship, cultural industries, power, ethics, governance, inequality, innovation, open data, privacy, security, social media, surveillance, trust)
- Prof Mark Graham (Big data, crowdsourcing, cultural industries, digital divides, ICT4D, inequality, innovation, open data, public policy, social media, labour, markets, digital labour, geography, transparency, participation, Africa, economic geography, production network, ethical consumption, power)
- Dr Scott Hale (Human behaviour, Human factors, multilingualism, user experience, data science, computational social science, mobilization, collective action, political participation, information visualization, natural language processing, data mining, knowledge discovery, social network analysis, social media, social networks)
- Dr Bernie Hogan (Behaviour, big data, ethics, social networks, social network analysis, social media, virtual communities)
- Prof Phil Howard (Political communication, international affairs, civic engagement, internet of things, computational propaganda, comparative methods, social media)
- Dr Vili Lehdonvirta (digital marketplaces, e-commerce, platform business, app stores, games, virtual currencies, crowdsourcing, online freelancing, volunteer work, ‘the gig economy’, and labour movements; especially from sociological, organization studies, and science and technology studies (STS) perspectives)
- Prof Helen Margetts (Digital government, public management, public policy, collective action, political participation, democracy, political science, data science, experiments)
- Prof Viktor Mayer-Schönberger (Big data, governance, law)
- Prof Eric T. Meyer (Arts, big data, crowdsourcing, cultural industries, digital humanities, e-research, ethnography, health, human-computer interaction, innovation, knowledge, open data, social informatics, virtual communities, virtual environments, web archives)
- Dr Brent Mittelstadt (Ethics, medical ICT, data mining, technology governance, responsible research and innovation, Habermas, information ethics, virtue ethics, hermeneutics, bioethics, computer ethics, epistemology)
- Dr Victoria Nash (Child safety, democracy, ethics, governance, inequality, public policy
- Professor Gina Neff (Innovation, work, organisations, culture, theory, qualitative methods, critical data studies, Science and Technology studies)
- Dr Andy Przybylski (psychology, human motivation, video games, virtual environments)
- Prof Ralph Schroeder (Big data, e-research, ethics, human-computer interaction, virtual environments)
- Dr Rosaria Taddeo (Ethics, Data Ethics, Ethics and AI, Ethics of Cyber Conflicts, Cyber Defence, Privacy, Trust, Surveillance, Security, Big data, Open Data, Governance, Power, Hacktivism)
- Dr Greg Taylor (Behaviour, markets, innovation, microeconomics, governance, public policy)
- Dr Joss Wright (Censorship, computational social science, cryptography, ethics, governance, privacy, public policy, security, surveillance, machine learning)
- Dr Taha Yasseri (behaviour, big data, collective action, computational social science, crowdsourcing, political participation, social media, social networks, virtual communities, social network analysis)
Gillian Bolsover – Technology and political speech: Commercialisation, authoritarianism and the supposed death of the Internet’s democratic potential
Bruce Etling – Network Structure, Brokerage, and Framing: How the Internet and Social Media Facilitate High-Risk Collective Action
Nicolas Friederici – Innovation Hubs in Africa: Assemblers of Technology Entrepreneurs
Ulirike Deetjen – Internet Use and Health: a mixed methods analysis using spatial microsimulation and interviews
Tom Nicholls – Digital Era Local Government in England: Service Reform and the Internet
Maja Andjelkovic (2015) Mimetic Processes in Entrepreneurship Ecosystems: the Cases of Mobile Technology Entrepreneurship Networks in Nairobi Supervisor: Eric Meyer.
Florian Bersier (2015) Design of Online Reputation Systems: An Economic Perspective. Supervisors: Greg Taylor, Nir Vulkan.
Elizabeth Dubois (2015) The Strategic Opinion Leader: Personal Influence and Political Networks in a Hybrid Media System. Supervisor: Jonathan Bright.
Heather Ford (2015) Fact Factories: Wikipedia and the Power to Represent. Supervisors: Mark Graham, Eric Meyer.
Darja Groselj (2015) Keeping up with technologies: Revisiting the meaning and role of Internet access in digital inclusion. Supervisor: Grant Blank.
Scott Hale (2015) Global connectivity, information diffusion, and the role of multilingual users in user-generated content platforms. Supervisor: Eric Meyer.
Roy Nyberg (2015) Examining Institutional Entrepreneurship at Early Moments: The Case of Mobile Health in England and Finland. Supervisor: Helen Margetts, Marc Ventresca
Jon Penney (2015) Chilling effects in the Internet age: three case studies. Supervisor: Vicki Nash.
Isis Hjorth (2014) Networked Cultural Production: Filmmaking in the Wreckamovie Community. Supervisors: Rebecca Eynon, Eric Meyer.
Amanda Clarke (2014) Government-Citizen Relations on the Social Web: Canada and the United Kingdom, 2006-2013. Supervisor: Helen Margetts.
Nesrine Abdel-Sattar (2014) Multimedia Innovation in Arabic Online Newsrooms: A Comparative Study of Aljazeera, Almassae and Almasry Alyoum. Supervisor: William Dutton.
Liao, H. (2014) The Cultural Politics of User-Generated Encyclopedias: Comparing Chinese Wikipedia and Baidu. Supervisor: Ralph Schroeder.
Daniel Villar Onrubia (2014) OER provision practices in context: a socio-technical study on OpenCourseWare initiatives in Spain. Supervisors: Rebecca Eynon, Eric Meyer.
Chrysanthi Papoutsi (2013) Reconfiguring privacy and confidentiality practices: a case study of technological integration in HIV health services. Supervisors: Ian Brown, Anne-Marie Oostveen.
Bianca Reisdorf (2013) Internet Non-Use: A Comparative Study of Great Britain and Sweden. Supervisors: Grant Blank, Rebecca Eynon.
Marcelo Thompson (2013) Evaluating Neutrality in the Information Age: On the Value of Persons and Access. Supervisor: Victoria Nash.
Alissa Cooper (2013) How Regulation and Competition Influence Discrimination in Broadband Traffic Management: A Comparative Study of Net Neutrality in the United States and the United Kingdom. Supervisor: Ian Brown.
Tobias Escher (2012) Does use of the Internet further democratic participation? A comparison of citizens’ interactions with political representatives in the UK and Germany. Supervisor: Ralph Schroeder.
Fadhila Haeri Mazanderani (2012) Information As Care: Reconnecting Internet Use, HIV and Health. Supervisor: Ian Brown.
Christine Madsen (2011) Communities, innovation, and critical mass: understanding the impact of digitization on scholarship in the humanities through the case of Tibetan and Himalayan studies. Supervisor: William Dutton.
Lucy Power (2011) e-Research in the life sciences: from invisible to virtual colleges. Supervisors: Eric Meyer, Ralph Schroeder.
Max Loubser (2010) Organisational Mechanisms in Peer Productions: The Case of Wikipedia. Supervisor: Helen Margetts.
Wolf Richter (2010) ‘Better’ Regulation Through Social Entrepreneurship? Innovative and Market-Based Approaches to Address the Digital Challenge to Copyright Regulation. Supervisor: Ian Brown.
Details of fees, living expenses, and definitions of home and overseas students, together with information about potential sources of funding are available from the University’s Fees and Funding webpages.
There are a number of sources of funding for postgraduate students at Oxford. Details of all scholarships for which candidates may be eligible can be found on the University Fees and Funding Website. To be considered for any of these scholarships applicants MUST apply before the end of the January ‘gathered field’. The scholarships are all highly competitive and are awarded on academic merit.
All eligible applicants for graduate study are automatically considered for the University’s prestigious Clarendon Scholarships and ESRC Studentships. These are highly competitive, and require high quality well-crafted research proposals. There is no separate application process for any of these scholarships. You will be notified around the beginning of May if you are successful is securing funding.
Clarendon is one of the biggest of the University’s scholarship schemes, offering around 140 new scholarships each year to academically outstanding graduates. Clarendon scholarships are competitive, prestigious and highly sought-after. As well as providing for fees and living costs Clarendon aims to enhance the Oxford experience by offering students the chance to form lasting social, academic and professional networks. Students can apply by completing the funding sections of the graduate admissions form. As part of the admissions process, the Oxford Internet Institute Scholarship Committee will decide which applicants to nominate to the University for consideration. Further details about Clarendon Scholarships is available at http://www.ox.ac.uk/clarendon.
ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership
The University of Oxford, along with the Open University and Brunel University, is part of the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) and will be awarding ESRC studentships at these three institutions starting from October 2017.
The Oxford Internet Institute’s graduate degree programmes are a recognised doctoral training pathway in the partnership and our Social Science of the Internet pathway is provided through two routes, Masters-to-DPhil (known as 1+3) and DPhil-only (known as +3), and is available to students studying part-time as well as those studying full-time.
Prospective students need to apply to their intended programme of study by the January application deadline, i.e. 12 noon on Friday 19th January 2018, in order to be considered for nomination for an ESRC studentship. Applicants who wish to be considered for 1+3 funding must indicate in their application an interest in pursuing doctoral work and an interest in ESRC funding; applicants considered for the university competition for DTP funding will be asked to submit a short research proposal.
All applicants must satisfy the ESRC’s citizenship and residence requirements.
When should I apply?
The DPhil Programme has one deadline in January. Please ensure that you start the online application process as early as you can, to ensure plenty of time to complete your application. Only applications that are complete by the deadline (including letters of reference) can be considered by the admissions team. All applications must be made through the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions site.
How do I choose a supervisor?
Our students are supervised by OII faculty members. Please note that we will only admit students where appropriate supervision is available: see the supervisor tab for details of supervisors. If having read these, you are still unsure who could supervise your proposed research (or if you are considering supervision by a faculty member from a different Oxford University department) please contact us to discuss this (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please note that it is strongly advised that DPhil applicants should contact a potential supervisor before they submit an application to check that there is appropriate supervision for their research proposal. Once DPhil applicants have identified an appropriate supervisor they should email them directly with a brief overview of the proposed research topic. The faculty member will then indicate whether they would be suitable to supervise the proposed topic.
What application materials do I need to submit?
The set of materials you should send with an application to the DPhil comprises: a statement of 1-2 pages and a research proposal of up to 2,500 words, in an area of research covered by at least one member of the OII faculty; a CV / résumé; three references; official transcripts detailing your university-level qualifications and marks to date; one relevant academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification of 2,000 words, or a 2,000-word extract of longer work.
Applicants who have not previously written on areas closely related to the proposed research topic may provide written work on any topic that best demonstrates their abilities.
Is the 2000 word limit on the written work a minimum or maximum?
2000 words is a maximum. Many students who find that their best work exceeds this length choose to submit a 2000 word extract from that longer piece of work. We recommend that your chosen piece: demonstrates your capacity for independent or original thought; is systematically analytical rather than purely descriptive; addresses a clear question or problem; where relevant, draws on data or literature sources to support its main arguments; expresses its arguments with clarity and precision.
If I need to submit English Language Test results, when are they due?
Applicants who need to fulfil an English Language requirement will be informed of the deadline upon receiving their offer. Please note that if you have taken a test previously, it must be within 2 years of making your application for the results to remain valid, otherwise you will need to retake the test. Applicants are required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required at the University.
Where can I find out about scholarships?
Information on scholarships and funding is available at: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/fees-and-funding
How many of my references have to be academic? Can I submit references that are not academic?
Of the three required references, at least one should be academic. You are welcome to submit professional references, as long as they are able to comment on your academic potential.
What do I do about references if I have been out of academia for a few years?
The OII actively encourages applications from those with valuable experience in the private and public sectors and those who have interrupted their studies for other reasons. We judge every application in a holistic manner on its individual merits and the main role of the admissions process is to assess candidates’ academic potential and intellectual suitability for graduate study. With this in mind, mid-career applicants are encouraged to select or produce written work that demonstrates their ability for independent analytical thought. Non-academic referees are encouraged to comment, in particular, on candidates’ intellectual capacity and analytical skills.
Do you offer any online or part-time courses?
We do not currently offer any of our courses online. We do, however, offer the DPhil on a part-time basis. The part time DPhil is substantively identical to the full-time degree, but distributes the workload over five to six years for those who must fit study around work, family, or other outside commitments.
What fees do I have to pay?
All graduate students have to pay BOTH tuition fees and College fees. See the University’s guidance on fee status and fee liability for information on Home / EU / Overseas student classification. As well as covering University and College fees, students will also have to support their maintenance costs. As Oxford is a relatively expensive place to live, it is recommended that students budget between £10,000 and £12,500 per annum to cover accommodation, meals and other living expenses.
Why do I need to choose a college?
Oxford is a collegiate university: students and teaching staff belong both to a Department and to a college. Colleges typically provide library and IT facilities, accommodation, welfare support, and sports and social events. Graduate students also benefit from the Middle Common Room (MCR) in their college – both a physical space and an organisation, it provides social events, advice, and a link to the graduate community. Your college will have a Tutor for Graduates or Senior Tutor whose role includes general oversight of all graduate members of the college, although your academic studies will be directed by your department or faculty. Each graduate student has a college adviser, a senior member of the college’s staff who will be able to offer support and advice. Further information is available on choosing a College on the University website, and from college prospectuses.
How do I decide on which college to choose?
We can’t advise applicants on their choice of college, however, all teaching is organised within the department so college choice will not make any significant difference to the way that students are taught or supervised. When making your choice, first check which colleges accept applications from OII students, then check the individual college websites. Factors you should consider when making your choice include; location, accommodation quality (and your eligibility for this), library facilities, any financial support the college may be able to offer (e.g. awards, bursaries or scholarships) and the collegiate atmosphere. Note that some colleges accept only graduate students or mature students. If you select a particular college as a preference it does not mean that you will be automatically offered a place there.
If I am accepted on a programme, am I guaranteed a place at a college?
Yes: Once you have received an offer from the department, your application will go forward for consideration by your preferred college, or the Graduate Admissions and Funding team will assign you a college for consideration if you have not selected a college preference. In the event of heavy over-subscription of a particular college, you may be allocated a place at another college. Colleges will contact candidates separately with their offer, subject to satisfaction of any funding conditions. A college decision can take 8-10 weeks following the departmental decision. The University does not guarantee accommodation at a college for its graduate students. However, many colleges do attempt to provide accommodation for graduate students during their first year of study, particularly in the case of international students. If your college is unable to provide any accommodation or the type of accommodation you need, you can contact the University Accommodation Office for further information and assistance.
I’m an international student!
The University of Oxford has a long tradition of welcoming international students, who currently constitute around 30 percent of the student body. We recommend that you consult the University’s International Office, which provides information to support international applications, such as on immigration and Visas, scholarships and funding, US Graduate Student Loans, English Language requirements, Orientation Programmes, etc. (EU students may also wish to consult the University’s page on the consequences of the EU referendum.)
What provisions are there for students with disabilities?
The University of Oxford is committed to providing equality of opportunity and improving access for all people with disabilities who work and study at the University. The University Disability Office has information about the support offered to help those with a disability maintain their track record of academic success as they pursue their studies. The ground floor of the OII is wheelchair-accessible, providing access to the library, seminar room, student common room and disabled toilet.
What facilities does the OII offer its students?
Our doctoral students are provided with working space in the department. We are equipped with advanced video conferencing facilities and high-speed network access. Our library specialises in the social sciences, technology and computing, and our students also have access to the Bodleian Library, the University’s main research library. Students are encouraged to engage fully in the intellectual life of the department, e.g. through participation in DPhil workshops, departmental seminars, and research projects.
Do I have to live in Oxford during my studies?
Full-time students are required by the University’s regulations to be in residence in Oxford during term time. That means a commitment to be in Oxford for at least the full nine weeks of all three terms of each academic year. You also need to be available in Oxford for several events outside full term, from the induction programme to examinations. Research away from Oxford should be discussed with your supervisor. Part-time students are not required to live in Oxford, but are expected to be present in Oxford on average 30 days per year. Please see the DPhil handbook for more details.