MSc in Political Theory Research

The MSc in Political Theory Research is an intensive one-year research preparation Master’s degree. It is not a stand-alone course, but rather it is intended for students who would like to proceed directly to doctoral study at Oxford or elsewhere but who must first obtain the necessary research training in political theory.

You should include at least some indication of the topic of your eventual doctorate in your application. Do not worry if you do not yet have a detailed thesis outline: the MSc programme is intended to help you to develop a detailed research proposal.

The MSc provides an advanced level of formal training in research techniques and methodology, and enables students to acquire advanced level substantive knowledge in this sub-area of the discipline. If you are successful on the degree you will attain a proven competence in theory of politics, methods and approaches in political theory, and reasoning in political philosophy. You will design your research project, and will write a short thesis under expert supervision.

Upon successful completion of your MSc, you will be expected to continue your studies in pursuit of a DPhil in a relevant area of political theory. You may apply to undertake doctoral research in the Department for a further three to four years.

The Department is internationally recognised as a leading centre for teaching and research in political theory. It is also home to two centres within this field: The History of Political Thought Research Network and the Centre for the Study of Social Justice.

Component Assessment
Year one
Core course in Theory of PoliticsWritten examination in Theory of Politics at the end of the first year
Research Methods TrainingSubmission of coursework and a research design essay as preparation for your thesis
ThesisSubmit a thesis of no more than 15,000 words


As an MSc in Political Theory Research student you would have to:

  1. attend a twenty-week core seminar in Theory of Politics, and sit a written examination in this core subject at the end of your first year.
  2. submit research methods training coursework and a research design essay in preparation for your thesis.
  3. submit a thesis of not more than 15,000 words.


Research Methods Options

Research Methods Options

  • Problems of Method in the History of Political Thought
  • Epistemology


At the end of the summer you will have to submit a short thesis of up to 15,000 words. The MSc thesis is a substantial piece of research, which should be regarded as a piece of preparatory work for, or a preliminary contribution towards, the eventual doctorate. It should demonstrate a grasp of its sub-field, a set of design and methodological issues, and the ability to develop and sustain an independent line of argument.
To give you an idea of the range of topics studied by MSc candidates, the titles of some recent successful MSc theses are listed below:

  • On Authenticity and Identity
  • The Duties of Exile: An Enquiry into the Political Standing of Exiles in their Home Political Communities
  • Expanding Democratic Politics: Minimalism, Deliberation and Democratic Theory
  • The range of claims that the state ought to be neutral between different permissible conceptions of the good life and their justification
  • Machiavelli: Politics and Glory
  • The Illiberality of Liberal Eugenics: The Genetic Engineering of Humans and the Limits of Parental Choice in Liberal Democratic Society
  • Concepts, Ideologies and History: The Empirical Prescriptivism of Michael Freeden’s Conceptual Morphology
  • Luck Egalitarianism: Motivation and Critique
  • The theory of political accountability in James Mill's political theory in general and his theory of representative government in particular
  • Constructivism, the Scope of Principles of Justice, and the Basic Structure: A Reply to Cohen
  • Justice in Institutions and Justice in Action: a preliminary review


Read more about Political Theory at the Department of Politics and International Relations