The MSc in Social Science of the Internet degree has a highly multi-disciplinary focus, providing students from a wide variety of backgrounds with an in-depth understanding of the social science concepts, theories and methods required to undertake research or policy analysis about the Internet.

It is available as a full-time (1 year) or part-time (2 year) programme. It can also be taken as an Oxford 1+1 Programme, which allows students to combine their OII MSc with the Oxford MBA (offered by the Said Business School).

MSC GRADUATE STUDIES HANDBOOK 2015-16 [PDF, 1MB]

The degree 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.

Students take a combination of examined core and option papers and produce a thesis of up to 15,000 words on a research topic agreed with an academic supervisor. After completing the degree, students will have gained an in-depth understanding of the main disciplinary, theoretical and methodological debates on key Internet issues.

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 course teaching. As a fully multi-disciplinary department, we offer our students the opportunity to study academic, practical and policy-related issues that can only be understood by drawing on contributions from across many different fields.

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.

Course Fees

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.

After the OII

Employers recognize the value of a degree from the University of Oxford, and our MSc graduates secure excellent positions in industry, government, NGOs, or go on to pursue doctoral studies at top universities. For example, non-academic destinations of graduates have included companies such as Google and Facebook, smaller start-ups like Academia.edu, as well as regulatory positions and consultancy. MSc alumni have also progressed to further graduate study at institutions such as Harvard, Princeton and LSE as well as other social science departments at the University of Oxford.

The MSc consists of four main components: two core courses; six methods core and option courses; two option papers; and the thesis.

Michaelmas Term: Core Papers Hilary Term: Option Papers Trinity Term: Thesis
Social Dynamics of the Internet Option Papers (x2) Thesis
Internet Technologies & Regulation Digital Social Research: Methods Option Papers (Group A) (x2) MSc Research Seminars
Digital Social Research: Methods Core Digital Social Research: Methods Option Papers (Group B) (x2)
Digital Social Research: Statistics Core

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

Part-time: The course content for the part-time degree is identical to that taken by full-time students but is completed in two years rather than one (see programme schedule).

Core Papers

Social Dynamics of the Internet 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.

Internet Technologies and Regulation is designed to give students from across a range of disciplines a basic understanding of the interplay between the social and technological shaping of the Internet, and the associated policy implications. It outlines the Internet’s origins and technical architecture and its embeddedness in a long history of communication technologies.

Digital Social Research (Methods)

The Digital Social Research (DSR) components of the course are designed to provide students with the core skills, methods, theories and concepts required to undertake the remainder of the degree. All students must take Digital Social Research: Methods Core and Digital Social Research: Statistics Core in Michaelmas term. In Hilary term students choose four four-week DSR option papers – two from Group A (weeks 1-4) and two from Group B (weeks 6-9). Students with a law and policy focus can take some classes in Legal Research Methods provided by the Faculty of Law in place of two of these option papers upon approval by the MSc Course Convener.

Option Papers

In Hilary term, students are required to take two option papers which enable them 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 can also take any option from a relevant paper from another University of Oxford Social Sciences Division Masters programme (with the permission of the MSc Course Convenor and the other department).

Thesis

In addition to the taught courses, students will be required to complete a dissertation 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.

Core papers

Our MSc students take four core papers in their first term.

  • Social Dynamics of the Internet. 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.
  • Internet Technologies and Regulation. Exploring the interplay between social and technological shaping of the Internet, and associated policy implications. It outlines the Internet’s origins and technical architecture and its embeddedness in a long history of communication technologies.
  • Digital Social Research: Statistics Core. This course introduces students to statistics for the social sciences, with an emphasis on application to research on the Internet and society.
  • Digital Social Research: Methods Core. This course provides students with the opportunity to engage with the methodological, ethical and philosophical underpinnings of quantitative and qualitative social science research practices.

Option papers

In their second term our MSc students take two option papers.

  • Digital Technology and Economic Organization. This course offers a tour of selected cutting-edge phenomena where Internet technologies seem to be at the root of radical social discontinuities.
  • The Philosophy and Ethics of Information. This course introduces some key concepts and phenomena related to information, and seeks to answer some crucial theoretical questions of great philosophical significance prompted by the development of the information society.
  • Subversive Technologies. This course aims to provide students with an understanding of technologies that provide control over information flows and action on the internet, and those that resist or subvert that control.
  • Online Social Networks. An introduction to the analysis of online social networks, providing students with the tools necessary to undertake research on online networks, and to give an overview of the type of questions that these data can answer.
  • Learning, the Internet and Society. ICTs have the potential to transform how, what and where people learn, and challenges existing ideas of what the purpose and nature of formal education is and what the future of education should be.
  • Law and the Internet. Introducing the challenges and limitations of conventional legal institutions on the Internet (especially those administered by the State) and reinterpreting these institutions in the context of the Internet.
  • Internet Economics. A general introduction to the economics of the Internet, and to economics as a tool for social research more generally, emphasising issues such as competition, asymmetric information, trust and privacy, auctions, and network economics.
  • ICT and Development. Introducing the debates and practices surrounding ICT uses in the Global South and Global North, drawing on Anthropology, Development Studies, Economics, Geography and History to examine the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that underpin development.
  • Digital Era Government and Politics. Providing an in-depth understanding of the changing nature of digital-era governance and politics and the theoretical, practical and ethical questions surrounding the role of the Internet and related technologies in political life.
  • Big Data in Society. This course critically examines the unprecedented opportunities and serious challenges inherent in big data approaches to advancing knowledge.

Advanced Methods Papers

In their second term our MSc students also take four advanced methods papers (two from each group).

Group A

  • Accessing Research Data from the Social Web. This course teaches the essentials of programming in Python, the language of choice in the growing field of computational social science.
  • Experimental Approaches. This course will prepare students to interpret and practice the experimental method, an increasingly important area of social science research in general, as well as design of policy.
  • Digital Interviewing. This course encourages students to develop a critical stance to their own research practice and the work of others. Alongside conceptual and theoretical discussions, students will obtain hand­s-on practice gathering qualitative data, particularly using digitally-mediated methods.
  • Wrangling Data. This course will familiarize the student with a variety of techniques for cleaning and shaping data.
  • Digital Ethnography. Ethnographic approaches to research are often employed in the study of ICTs. This course provides an overview of the ethnographic tradition and explores the new opportunities and challenges the Internet has presented for those interested in carrying out ethnography.
  • Advanced Statistics for Internet Research I: Multiple Regression. Multiple regression is probably the most commonly used statistical technique in the social sciences. This course emphasizes its application to research on the Internet and society.

Group B

  • Advanced Statistics for Internet Research II. This course covers the interpretation of coefficients and odds ratios, measures of fit, supporting graphics, and diagnostics and corrective techniques for common problems. It aims to give students a wider range of statistical techniques that they can apply in their own research.
  • Simulating Society. This course is about agent-based modelling, a fascinating technique for answering social science questions, based on computer simulation of real-world societies and real-world human events.
  • Qualitative Data Analysis (Group B) This course is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to carry out qualitative data analysis of a variety of kinds of data (e.g. text, photos, videos) collected from both online and offline settings.
  • Metrics, Measurement, and Online Visibility. This course provides students with the knowledge and skills to carry out qualitative data analysis of a variety of kinds of data collected from online and offline settings.
  • Information Visualization. This course aims to provide students with the skills to take advantage of visualization tools and data, through an introduction to information visualization theory, as well as basic practical skills in creating effective visuals.
  • Big Data Analytics. This course focuses on the statistical analysis, manipulating, and making sense of (already prepared) data.

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. Some example theses are listed below:

  • 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.

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.

MSc_20092016-genderMSc_20092016-countries

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..

Meet the students! In this video our MSc students discuss life at the Oxford Internet Institute. They discuss their backgrounds, the courses they took, what they wrote their thesis on, what it’s like to be a student at the OII, what they’re up to now, and finally answered a question they had not been prepped for: summarise the course in just one word. They came up with some good words..

The Internet has been a big part of my life for the last decade, from work to entertainment. However, only after the 2011 wave of social economical demonstrations in Israel did I see a different picture — how the Internet can be used for different civic actions. As a Politics and Jewish History student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I started to look into the Internet’s effect on the Israeli government. On a practical level, I joined an Open Data organization in Israel. I wanted to pursue this fascination with the Internet in my graduate studies and found the OII to be the only place focusing on social science while also cooperating with different disciplines like computer science. Over the last year the academic staff and my diverse cohort of friends have helped me learn about the tools and concepts shaping the Internet, and to understand how the Internet is slowly changing human society. The academic environment, diverse seminar programme and openness to new student ideas makes the OII one of the most exciting Oxford departments to be a part of.
Mor Rubinstein: MSc student (2013)

OII_5167The OII is a vibrant and exciting place. The faculty and staff really strive to create a community conducive to both personal and scholarly growth. Joining the OII after finishing a degree in Communication Studies at Clemson University (U.S.), I was a little worried that It might be difficult to situate myself in an interdisciplinary program. I was quite mistaken. I’ve found both the OII and Oxford to be a place that welcomes collaboration and experimentation. Studying at the OII, an institution that makes the Internet its primary research focus and incorporates aspects of a range of methodologies to most appropriately tackle Internet research, has provided a solid educational experience. The students are encouraged to connect their current study with their past education and experiences, ultimately feeding back into the OII’s creative and interdisciplinary atmosphere. The members of the OII all have rich and diverse backgrounds. I find every lecture and conversation with faculty and fellow classmates presents a new perspective which, for me, illuminates a new aspect of the Internet’s role in society. It is true brotherhood in a sandbox of thought.
Cohen Simpson: 
MSc student (2011)

About the MSc Programme

Which application deadline should I apply for?

There are three deadlines for the MSc Programme. Applications submitted for all three are given equal consideration, so please choose the deadline that works best for you. However, please be aware that you will need to apply by the January deadline if you want to be automatically considered for a number of scholarships. Also, 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. MSc students are assigned supervisors during the first weeks of term depending on their chosen topic.

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; and 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. Further details on English language requirements.

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 well, 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. However, we do offer a part-time MSc programme. The part time MSc is substantively identical to the full-time degree, but distributes the workload over two years for those who must fit study around work, family, or other outside commitments. The part-time mode of study for this course is not suitable to non-EU students who do not already live in the UK before the course begins, as student visas are not issued for part-time study at the University of Oxford. For information, refer to https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration.

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 MSc 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 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 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.

Additional FAQs About the Part-Time MSc 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) for independent study.

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.

Visas / Non-UK Students

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 https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration/student-visas. (EU students may also wish to consult the University’s page on the consequences of the EU referendum.)