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MSc in Social Science of the Internet

MSc in Social Science of the Internet

In most parts of the world today, the Internet is deeply embedded in all aspects of society. The MSc in Social Science of the Internet is designed to contribute to the education of current and future researchers, policy makers, analysts and practitioners from both public and private sectors, providing them with an in-depth understanding of the social science concepts, theories, methods and principles to carry out innovative, high quality research, analysis and policy formulation.

As a Master’s student at the Oxford Internet Institute, you will address research questions from across the spectrum of disciplines, drawing on our multi-disciplinary faculty who work at the cutting-edge of their fields. Their innovative research is fully reflected in their teaching, allowing you to focus on developing the skills, tools, techniques, and knowledge to embark upon a career that makes a difference.


Course Structure

You will take a combination of core papers, option papers and method option papers and produce a thesis of up to 15,000 words on a topic of your choosing based on discussions with a thesis supervisor.

  • Core papers are designed to provide students with a foundation of core skills, methods, theories and concepts required for sophisticated study in the field.
  • Option papers enable students to pursue specialist research skills and disciplinary expertise in greater depth. This includes Methods option papers that allow further methodological training, with papers focusing on the development and use of cutting edge research tools and techniques.
  • The thesis provides you the opportunity to apply the methods and approaches you have covered in the other parts of the course and carry out a substantive piece of academic research including designing a study, carrying out data collection and analysis, and developing a theoretical framework.

During Trinity Term, you will attend weekly seminars where you will present and develop your thesis research and receive feedback from fellow students and academic staff. The MSc seminars also include talks from academics within the Oxford Internet Institute, the University of Oxford and the greater academic community across the UK, as well as presentations about careers from alumni and employers.

The MSc in Social Science of the Internet is designed for

  • Students intending to focus on Internet-related research in the further pursuit of a doctoral degree in information, communication, or any of the social sciences.
  • Students wishing to gain the skills and knowledge needed for professional careers in leading technology companies, consulting firms, and the wide variety of businesses that increasingly need employees who understand technology and how people use it;
  • Students wishing to pursue a career in Internet communications policy or regulation;
  • Professionals working in Internet-related fields, and who wish to gain a broader understanding of the societal aspects of its design or use.

Learning outcomes

The course aims to equip you with essential theoretical tools and methodological skills. You are introduced to the empirical evidence necessary for an in-depth understanding of the role of the Internet in society, including the changing nature of governance and the theoretical, practical and ethical questions surrounding Internet use.

On completion of the course, students will have:

  • Acquired skills in both quantitative and qualitative research methods including leading edge methods of particular relevance to online activity;
  • Learned how to apply approaches from one or more of the social sciences to consideration of the Internet and related technologies and their societal implications;
  • Gained empirical and theoretical knowledge and understanding of the major topics and concepts in Internet research as well as a general understanding of the technological and social shaping of the Internet.
  • Gained wide-ranging critical knowledge and understanding of the scholarly literature, key topics and concepts in areas relating to the student’s particular research interests.
  • Learned to think strategically about the Internet and its evolving technologies and their implications for policy and practice.
  • Participated in, and learned from, the range of intellectual activities ongoing in the OII and the wider University.
  • Achieved a high standard of written work through the preparation and presentation of essays and assessed coursework.

How to Apply

All applications must be made through the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions site.

  • The full-time MSc programme has two deadlines, in November and January.
  • The part-time MSc programme has three deadlines, in November, January and March.

Applications submitted for all deadlines are given equal consideration. 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.

This MSc can form part of the Oxford 1+1 Programme, which enables students to combine their MSc with the Oxford MBA (Said Business School) in order to provide a two-year Oxford postgraduate experience that combines the depth of study of an MSc, with the managerial and leadership breadth of an MBA.

Applicants to the MSc in Social Science of the Internet programme who plan to continue on to the DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences at the completion of the MSc are encouraged to apply for both programmes by selecting the combined MSc + DPhil (1+3) programme when they apply. Continuation to the DPhil portion of the combined MSc + DPhil programme will require that students meet the normal DPhil admissions requirements and any conditions set to progress to the DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences.

Key Information


  • Full-time: 10 months
    Part-time: 22 months

Start date:

  • October 2022


12 noon UK time (midday) on:

  • Friday 12 November 2021
  • Friday 7 January 2022
  • Tuesday 1 March 2022 (part-time applicants only)

Student Experience

Adam Mahdi talking to student


Our induction programme is usually held in the first week of October, the week preceding the start of Michaelmas Term (also referred to as 0th week). During Induction Week students will be formally introduced to the OII’s Director, Director of Graduate Studies, Programme Directors, Graduate Studies Support team, as well as our faculty and administrative team. In addition students will be offered a full tour of the OII’s facilities and introduced to IT and library resources, followed by several informative MSc induction sessions. There is also ample opportunity to get to know fellow students and staff through student-led social activities and an afternoon drinks reception. 


Students will be assigned a supervisor in their first term based on their research interests. The supervisor will remain the main point of contact for keeping an eye on academic progress, and will liaise with the student and with other faculty members with whom the student is working with on their thesis. A supervisor may be found outside the OII, and co-supervision is also possible.

Work space

Our MSc students are provided with working space in the department in our dedicated MSc room, where computing facilities with specialist software are available. We are equipped with advanced video conferencing facilities and high-speed network access. The OII’s library specialises in the social sciences, technology and computing, and our students also have access to the Bodleian Libraries, the University’s main research library.

Pastoral and Welfare Support

In addition to the pastoral support provided your college, as a department the OII seeks to support students by various means. Each degree programme has dedicated administrative support and the administrators in question will be able to help and advise students on a range of matters relating to their studies, or point them towards dedicated sources of support elsewhere in the University. Supervisors and the Director of Graduate Studies can also serve as a source of support, in addition to our dedicated Disability Contact and several Harassment Officers who can assist with connecting students with the appropriate support.

Option Papers

Option papers enable students to pursue issues of particular interest in greater depth, whilst developing their specialist skills and applying them to the Internet and its evolving technologies. Students are required to take two option papers and four methods option papers from a list of option courses offered by the Oxford Internet Institute. Please note that this course offering is provisional, and may be subject to change.

Each student will select two option papers from the list below.


Students will be required to complete a thesis of up to 15,000 words on a topic of their choosing after discussion with their supervisor. This provides students with the opportunity to apply the methods and approaches they have covered in the other parts of the course and carry out a substantive piece of academic research on a specialist topic of their choosing.

Selected Past Alumni Theses

The MSc in Social Science of the Internet degree has a highly multi-disciplinary focus, which is reflected in the wide range of topics addressed in final theses.


  • Marianna Drake (2019) – Future Perfect: how the logic of predictive algorithms jeopardises human autonomy
  • Eric Morrison (2019) – Team Diversity and Performance in Video Game Development
  • Samantha Pay (2019) – The Algorithmic Female stereotypes, streaming and self-regulation in everyday personalisation culture


  • Tulsi Paridi (2018) – Mobile Learning: A Paradox for Families in Dharavi, Mumbai
  • Jazza Macmillan-Clenaghan (2018) – Unionise YourSelf: Collective Action and Worker Mobilisation Among Digital Content Creators on YouTube
  • Aaron Gluck-Thaler (2018) –  Recursive Vulnerabilities Toward a Genealogy of Automated Security


  • Daniel Chase (2017) – Bytes of Bushels: Data and Ethics in Agriculture
  • Lily McElwee (2017) – Social Media and Campaign Finance in the 2016 Congressional Cycle
  • Susanne Forbath (2017) – I-Why: The Values of Type 1 Diabetes Management through the Nightscout Online Community
  • Olivia Gonzalez (2017) – The Key to Privacy and Security: Legal Approaches to Encryption
  • Claire Leibowicz (2017) – Art of Looking in the 21st Century
  • Leonie Riviere  (2017) – Silent or silenced minorities? The importance of gender-based identification with exemplars on perceived hostility and willingness to engage in online discussions
  • Aisle Zalepuga (2017) – Digital Government Ecosystems in Baltic States: Public-Private Partnerships, Contract Regimes and the IT Industry


  • Rachel Pollack (2016) – Opening the Black Box: In search of Algorithmic Transparency
  • Ilinca Barsan (2016) – To what extent can network position predict the performance of online video creators?
  • Andrew Bulovsky (2016) – Co-opting Authoritarians: Information and Communication Technologies and Democratic Transitions
  • Judith Dada (2016) – Engaging to explore? An online experiment to investigate the impact of interactivity in data visualizations
  • Bryce Goodman (2016) – Big Data’s Crooked Timbers: Algorithmic Discrimination and the European Union General Data Protection Regulation
  • Nicole Ng (2016) – Semantics of Disruption: Mapping the Media’s Love-Hate Discourse on the Sharing Economy
  • Carl Ohman (2016) – The Political Economy of Death in the Age of Information: A Critical Approach to the Digital Afterlife Industry
  • Odysseas Nicolaos Sclavounis (2016) – How do Darknet Markets Function in the Absence of Third Party Enforcement?
  • Amrita Sengupta (2016) – Collective Identity in Digital Spheres: Feminist movements online and the united struggles for public spaces in South Asia
  • Kate Sim (2016) – Missed opportunities and the promise of Big Data: Child protection workers’ perspectives on information sharing, risk assessment, and prediction


  • Eve Binder (2015) Can Gaming Inspire Giving? A Controlled Experiment on the Effectiveness of Gamification as a Fundraising Tool.
  • Atilla-Filipe Cevik (2015) The Effects of Politics on Information-Selection Modes Online: A Typology of Exposure and Avoidance in High-Choice Media Environments.
  • Rebecca Fallon (2015) Guns and Roses: Online Imagery as Jihadi Participation for Female ISIS Supporters.
  • Charles Howell (2015) The Burden of Interconnectedness: A Network Approach to Cross Pressures and Political Particpation.
  • Amba Kak (2015) The Internet Un-Bundled: Locating the user’s voice in the debate on zero-rating.
  • Francesco Lanzoni (2015) Context Collapse or Networked Audience? The interaction between self-presentation and social network structures among Facebook users.
  • Ellie Marshall (2015) From Variable to Linkable: How digital traces identify in the disability community in Britain.
  • Anuj Srivas (2015) Rural Information Seeking Patterns: A Study of Farming and Fishing Communities in South.
  • Pu Yan (2015) Two Roads Diverged: A Semantic Network Analysis of Guanxi on Twitter.


  • Frank Hangler (2014) Citizen Participation in Constructing the Smart City.
  • Justin Kempley (2014) Patient trust and interaction with online self-diagnosis tools: a comparative study.
  • Sarah Lefkowith (2014) Credibility and Crisis in Semi-Anonymous Communities
  • Allison Mishkin (2014) Teenagers Online.
  • Tim Muntinga (2014) Home Sapiens Inquisitio: Trust in the Search Engine or the Result.
  • Caitlyn Myles (2014) The amplification of inequality and the case of crowd mapping sexual violence.
  • John Ternovski (2014) Measuring Social Influence in an Activist Network through a large-scale field experiment.
  • Gili Vidan (2014) Strength in Numbers, Trust in Protocols: The Bitcoin Ethos and the Delegation of Governance to New Technocrats.


  • Jeremy Bowles (2013) The Political Economy of Conflict, Cooperation and Consensus in IP Address Governance.
  • Stefanie Duguay (2013) Facebook as a decontextualized environment: Young People’s experience of navigating LGBTQ identities on a social networking site.
  • Ayman El Idrissi (2013) Purchasing phone plans: the behavioural effects of using price comparison sites.
  • Vyacheslav Polonski (2013) A Game of Networks: Assessing the Impact of Relational structure on Conversational Agency in Facebook Groups.
  • Thain Simon (2013) MOOCs For a fee: using signature track to examine student engagement, persistence, and performance on Coursera.
  • Sara Watson (2013) Living with Data: Personal Data Interests of the Quantified Self.
  • Joao Zacarias Fiadeiro (2013) Wikipedia as a co-authorship community: exploring the dynamics of collaboration and article quality.


  • Elizabeth Dubois (2012) Online Citizen Political Engagement and the Traditional Media.
  • Alexander Furnas (2012) You Are Who You Follow? Semantic Similarity of Political Partisan’s Ego-Networks on Twitter.
  • Marina Laube (2012) Changing mobility through health information on the mobile Internet.
  • Momin Malik (2012) Networks of collaboration and field emergence in ‘Internet Studies’.
  • Yonatan Moskowitz (2012) A Theoretical Model of Externalities in Anonymity Decisions.


  • Andreas Birkbak (2011) Crystallizations in the Blizzard: When improvised collaboration freezes into Facebook groups.
  • Ulrike Deetjen (2011) Patient Trust in Internet-based Health Records: An Analysis across Operator Types and Levels of Patient Involvement in Germany.
  • Alec Dent (2011) Does the quality of an item description on ebay influence price?
  • Darja Groselj (2011) The Landscape of Health-Related Information on the Web: Analysis of Search Results and Link Structures for Most Popular Medical Queries.
  • Thomas Nicholls (2011) ICANN as a regulator: Measuring the impact of new gTLDs.
  • Scott Hale (2010) Cross-lingual Interaction Online: Blogging the 2011 Haitian Earthquake.
  • Amaru Villanueva Rance (2010) Gaze-Translucency in computer-mediated interactions: Ways of seeing, being seen and being seen to be seeing online.


The MSc consists of four core papers, two option papers, four methods option papers, and the thesis.

The MSc course runs from October to August. Oxford University terms are referred to as Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term, and Trinity Term  and normally last eight weeks. Please note that this information is provisional, and may be subject to change.

Full-time programme (1 year)*

Michaelmas Term: Core Papers Hilary Term: Option Papers Trinity Term: Thesis
Social Dynamics of the Internet
Option Paper 1
Internet Technologies & Regulation
Option Paper 2
MSc Research Seminars
Digital Social Research: Methods Core
Methods Option Paper 1
Digital Social Research: Statistics Core
Methods Option Paper 2
Methods Option Paper 3
Methods Option Paper 4

The course content for the part-time degree is identical to that taken by full-time students but will be completed in two years rather than one year. Students will be expected to attend lectures, classes and tutorials in the department for one to two days a week during term-time, and to participate fully in the life of this friendly and dynamic department, both remotely and in person.

Part-time programme (2 years)*

Year 1

Michaelmas Term: Core Papers Hilary Term: Option Papers Trinity Term: Thesis
Social Dynamics of the Internet
Option Paper 1
MSc Research Seminar (choose 4-8 sessions)
Digital Social Research: Methods Core Methods Option Paper 1 Thesis Proposal
Methods Option Paper 2

Year 2*

Michaelmas Term: Core Papers Hilary Term: Option Papers Trinity Term
Internet Technologies & Regulation
 Option Paper 2
MSc Research Seminar (choose 4-8 sessions)
Methods Option Paper 3 Thesis
Methods Option Paper 4

MSc + DPhil

Woman working at a laptop

The DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences is designed as a natural continuation of the MSc in Social Science of the Internet and offers the opportunity for students to go deeper into a research topic of their choice.

Applicants to the MSc programme who plan to continue on to the DPhil programme at the completion of the MSc are encouraged to apply for both programmes as part of their application by selecting the combined MSc+DPhil (1+3) programme when they apply. Continuation to the DPhil portion of the combined MSc+DPhil programme will require that students meet the normal DPhil admissions requirements and any conditions set to progress to the DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences.

Students admitted only for the MSc in their first year may later apply to continue on to the DPhil, as may students from other universities who can demonstrate similar preparation at the master’s level elsewhere. Students admitted to the 1+3 programme will be considered for funding for the duration of both degrees.

Fees & Funding


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 website.


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 both full- and part-time applicants MUST apply by the January deadline. The scholarships are all highly competitive and are awarded on academic merit.

Clarendon Scholarships

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 of this scholarship can be found on the University’s Clarendon Scholarships page.

ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership

The Grand Union DTP ESRC studentship is for applicants to the combined MSc + DPhil programme (1+3) or the DPhil programme only.

The ESRC is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on social and economic issues. The University, in collaboration with Brunel University and the Open University, hosts the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership – one of fourteen Doctoral Training Partnerships accredited by the ESRC as part of a Doctoral Training Network.

The Oxford Internet Institute’s graduate degree programmes are a recognised doctoral training pathway in the partnership and our Digital Social Science 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.

In order to be considered for a Grand Union DTP ESRC studentship, you must select ‘ESRC Grand Union DTP Studentships in Social Sciences’ in the University of Oxford scholarships section of the University’s graduate application form. You must also complete a Grand Union DTP Application Form and upload it, together with your graduate application form, to be considered for nomination for the 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.

Information about ESRC studentships at Oxford can be found on the Grand Union DTP website. Please ensure you have read all of the guidance available on the website before completing the Grand Union DTP Application Form. Questions can be directed to the Grand Union DTP Office.

All applicants must satisfy the ESRC’s citizenship and residence requirements’.

Rhodes and Marshall Scholars

The OII welcomes a number of Rhodes and Marshall Scholars onto the MSc programme every year. Eligible students should apply for those scholarships before applying for a place on the MSc programme.

OII Shirley Scholarship

The OII awards a limited number of MSc Scholarships each academic year. These scholarships are open to both full- and part-time students (from any country) and all applicants who are offered a place on our programme are automatically considered for an award. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit.

Recipients of an OII departmental scholarship will be designated as Shirley Scholars, and they will be supported by the Shirley Scholars Fund established in honour of OII founder donor Dame Stephanie Shirley.


You can find general FAQs about applying to our courses, studying at the OII, and choosing a college on the study FAQs page.

How does the MSc in Social Science of the Internet differ from the MSc in the Social Data Science?

The MSc in Social Science of the Internet is designed for students interested in research about the Internet and related technologies and their societal implications. Theses in this programme might include quantitative, qualitative, computational or mixed methods applied to a broad range of questions about digital phenomena and could address questions about technology policy or practice. The MSc in Social Data Science is designed for students with core quantitative skills who wish to develop their skills for analysing structured and unstructured data using advanced computational techniques such as machine learning. Theses in Social Data Science might develop new computational approaches for analysing human behavioural data and/or apply such approaches to answer a social science question.

Which application deadline should I apply for?

There are two application deadlines for the full-time MSc programme and three application deadlines for the part-time MSc programme. Applications submitted for all deadlines are given equal consideration, but both full-time and part-time applicants who wish to be considered for any scholarships should apply by the January deadline at the latest. Please ensure that you start the online application process as early as you can, to allow for 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.

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. Further details on English language requirements.

How do I choose a supervisor?

Our students are supervised by OII faculty members and Research Associates.

Students will be assigned a supervisor in their first term based on their research interests. The supervisor will remain the main point of contact for keeping an eye on academic progress, and will liaise with the student and with other faculty members with whom the student is working with on their thesis.

What fees do I have to pay?

Course fees cover your teaching, and other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. They do not cover your accommodation or other living costs. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

See the University’s guidance on fee status and fee liability for information on Home/Republic of IrelandIslands and 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 consult the University’s guidance on living costs when planning their budget, to cover accommodation, meals and other living expenses.

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 for each of the 8 weeks of Michaelmas and Trinity terms and the 10 weeks of Hilary term. You will be free to leave Oxford after the end of each term but are advised to return during the week prior to the start of the next term (referred to as 0th week). In addition students are required to sit written examinations in week 9 of their first term and 0th week and (for certain courses) 10th week in their second term and thus must be resident in Oxford at these times. You will need to submit your thesis in person to the Examination Schools by August 1st (or the nearest working day if this falls at the weekend) and you will also need to be available to return to Oxford in late August or September in the event of being called back for viva voce.

FAQs About the Part-Time Programme

How many days a week should I expect to commit to the part time programme?

We have structured the course so that during Michaelmas Term (the first term in the academic year) and Trinity Term (the last term in the academic year), you will only need to spend one day a week in Oxford. During Hilary Term (the second term in the academic year), there are several options courses, so the days and times you are in Oxford will depend on which courses you take. You will also need to set aside one further day a week (or the equivalent hours) in all three terms for independent study.

During all three terms part-time students will need to be able to commit to spending to at least one day a week in Oxford for the eight consecutive weeks of each term, as a minimum. In addition, in their first year part-time students will need to be present in Oxford for the full Induction Week (normally held the first week of October).

How is the part-time programme different from the full-time programme?

The only difference between the part-time and full-time programmes is that for the part-time students, the courses will be spread out over two years. All of the courses will be the same. During Trinity Term of your first year (the final term of the academic year), you will work on your thesis proposal which will be due the first day of Michaelmas Term (the first term of the academic year) of your second year. Full-time students will be working on their thesis during Trinity Term.

Do I have to live in Oxford during my studies?

Part-time students are not expected to live in Oxford. We have structured the course to ensure that part-time students, who may also have work commitments throughout their studies, will only need to attend the Oxford Internet Institute on one or two days per week.

Can I study on the part-time programme if I need a visa to study in the UK?

The University cannot offer visas to students on this part-time programme, all applicants must be legally resident in the UK or allowed to study here. Students entering the UK on a Dependant Visa, Ancestry Visa, or a Working Visa should also be eligible to study on the course. For further information, please refer to the Home Office’s information on student visas.

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