The DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences (doctoral) programme provides an opportunity for highly qualified students to undertake cutting edge Internet-related research. 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. Many OII doctoral students are pursuing research that will shape the development of digital networked spaces and those whose lives are affected by it.
Over the course of the three to four year programme, doctoral students are expected to produce an important and original piece of scholarship that will make a significant contribution to this new and exciting field. On completion, it is expected that our students will have the qualities and transferable skills necessary to excel in teaching, research, policymaking, or business in their chosen fields.
It is available as a full-time (3-4 year) or part-time (6-8 year) programme.
Why study at the Oxford Internet Institute?
The OII is a dynamic and innovative centre for Internet-related research and teaching, located in a world-leading traditional research university. Our faculty work at the cutting-edge of their fields, and this innovative research is fully reflected in their teaching and supervision. Our doctoral students address research questions from across the spectrum of disciplines, drawing both on the multidisciplinary faculty and on the complementary strengths of their cohort of peers as they build on literature from different disciplines to answer research questions. This 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.
In addition to the formal requirements of the DPhil thesis, all OII 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.
The department’s busy calendar of seminars and events brings the most important people in the Internet world to the OII, allowing students to engage with the ‘bleeding edge’ of scholarship and debates around the Internet. Students also take full advantage of the unparalleled resources available at the University including world-ranking research facilities and libraries, and a busy student scene. With over 200 student societies across the University, whatever your interests or level (whether sporting, music, politics, journalism, etc.) there will probably be a group of students with similar interests.
After the OII
Employers recognize the value of a degree from the University of Oxford, and our doctoral students regularly go on to secure excellent positions in academia, industry, government, and NGOs. Recent alumni who have pursued academic careers have taken up positions at universities such as the University of Hong Kong, Imperial College at London University, University of Leicester, and Durham University, whilst others have chosen non-academic roles and found success in organizations including Cisco, McKinsey and Google.
Completion of a doctorate at Oxford is expected to take between two and four years. Whilst every doctoral project will follow a unique path, there are common milestones that every OII 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
As an OII DPhil student, you are expected to have completed at least a one or two year Master’s degree (at Oxford or elsewhere). The minimum period in which the DPhil can be completed is therefore two years (if you have completed an Oxford MPhil in a related area) but the norm is three years. Please note that part-time study is not possible, and students are required to be resident in Oxford for at least the first two years of their degree.
|YEAR ONE||YEAR TWO||YEAR THREE|
|Entry as Probationer Research Student (PRS)||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|
|DSR: Methods Option Papers|
|Thesis: formulating a research question|
Oxford University terms are referred to as Michaelmas Term (MT), Hilary Term (HT) and Trinity Term (TT) and normally last eight weeks.
Year One: Formulating a Research Question
The focus in the first year is on formulating research questions, and research skills training. All doctoral students are required to take two 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:
- Social Dynamics of the Internet (MT) provides an overview of the major findings to date regarding the social implications of the Internet, drawing material from several social science disciplines, including communication studies, sociology, and political science. Note that there is also a separate discussion session of this course just for DPhil students.
- Digital Social Research (MT and HT) provides students with the core skills, methods, theories and concepts required to undertake the remainder of the degree. It examines issues concerning the application of traditional social research methods to the study of emerging ICTs as well as the use of new methods, enabled by the Internet and ICTs, in the study of an array of social research problems. All students must take DSR Methods Core and DSR Statistics Core in Michaelmas term. In Hilary term doctoral students have the option of choosing up to four of the DSR option papers; a decision made in discussion with their supervisor.
First year doctoral students may also be required to attend additional research methods training classes if deemed necessary for their proposed research. 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/ more 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 (dissertation), and will meet regularly with their supervisor to this end. By the end of the first year, 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 forth 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].
Year Two: Gathering Data
The second year 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. The second year 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. Details of the Confirmation of Status process can be found in the DPhil Graduate Studies Handbook [PDF].
Year Three: Writing Up and Submission
The third year will concentrate on any final data gathering, and writing up the final chapters for submission of the thesis. The thesis must be submitted within 12 terms from the date of admission as a graduate student. In special circumstances you may apply for extension of time through the Graduate Studies Committee. The maximum extension permitted is 6 terms, making 18 terms 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)
- 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 archive)
- 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)
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.
At the OII, we are proud of the diversity our students. Roughly equal numbers of women and men enrol in the MSc programme each year. We have hosted students from every continent and a broad array of economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. We are proud to say that the OII has been and continues to be a safe space for students within the gender and sexual minority community.
We also welcome students with a variety of previous educational and work experiences. Our students have even more diverse intellectual backgrounds than our multidisciplinary faculty. We have admitted students with previous training and degrees in sociology, political science, economics, geography, information science, law, and a whole gamut of social science disciplines, but also with technical backgrounds such as computer science and engineering, with science backgrounds such as biology and physics, and with humanities backgrounds such as languages, literature, rhetoric, and history. What ties them together is a passion for gaining a deeper understanding of the role of the Internet across many domains of experience, behaviour, and knowledge.
In their own words..
Three years ago I came across the OII for the first time. I was studying Globalization and Communications in Leicester, having already gained a background in Media Studies and Computer Science from Germany. The OII seemed like the perfect place for someone with a firm interest in the social aspects of the Internet who felt a bit caught between all the disciplinary stools. From the very start of my DPhil the OII has indeed been that comfortable home for me: providing seminars and guidance from real experts, stimulating discussion with my DPhil colleagues and the freedom to pursue whatever topic you fancy. For Oxford as a whole: as long as you don’t take its strange traditions too seriously it’s actually a really good place to spend some time of your life.
Tobias Escher: DPhil student (graduated 2013)
Whilst working with FLOSS and digital certification in the Brazilian government, I felt deeply challenged by some hard theoretical puzzles that Internet-related technologies pose to law and policy. I then decided it was time to give my academic self another breath. After spending an intellectually enriching year doing a Master in Law and Technology at the University of Ottawa, in Canada, I perceived that I would greatly benefit from working out my knowledge in other related social sciences, so as to grasp the whole societal implications of technology. I was also interested in a place that, besides gathering top-notch researchers to investigate the new, could also question it with a thorough philosophical understanding of the past. Multidisciplinarity, a bustling research environment, and (slightly bizarre?) philosophical tradition have brought me to the OII, and the University of Oxford.
Marcelo Thompson: DPhil student (graduated 2013)
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 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 and Research Associates. 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 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. A part-time DPhil will be offered starting in 2017; interested applicants can contact email@example.com for further information.
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?
You 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.