Home>Annina, PhD candidate in Sociology between Sciences Po médialab/CREST (Institut Polytechnique de Paris), France


Annina, PhD candidate in Sociology between Sciences Po médialab/CREST (Institut Polytechnique de Paris), France


Coming from Finland, Annina Claesson has graduated with a Master’s degree in Master in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action. Currently, Annina is pursuing a PhD in Sociology between Sciences Po Médialab/CREST (Institut Polytechnique de Paris), France.

What is your main scope of research?

My PhD focuses on how public figures pursue visibility in the social media age. Specifically, I look at how French MPs undertake their communications work today and what it means to be successful or “famous” in a rapidly changing social media landscape. I combine qualitative and computational methods, going to interview MPs and their teams in the Assemblée Nationale as well as working with social media data. I work on many sub-topics within the framework of this thesis, including online abuse and how journalists have adapted to Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.

How did you prepare for your PhD?

Several PSIA classes were part of my preparation for a PhD. Most directly, this consisted of methods classes, especially those I undertook in digital methods, which are being offered more and more for PSIA students. Thematic classes on topics related to freedom of expression in the digital age were also useful, including some I undertook in the Media & Writing specialization. I applied for PhD programs directly upon finishing my Masters degree, but was unsuccessful in securing funding. After working for UNESCO for a year, I reapplied and eventually found my way back to Sciences Po, at least partly. My current PhD is undertaken within the framework of a project financed by the ANR, but I still have a lot of freedom in my research.

What is the most fascinating part of pursuing a PhD?

I find a lot of fulfillment in having complete ownership of a long-term project that I get to shape however I want. It is a rare opportunity to be able to really take the time to explore a topic from all possible angles and contribute to a scholarly discussion with my own voice. Having always enjoyed this side of my studies, it became a life goal of mine. That said, having also seen a more practitioner side of things from PSIA and my subsequent working experience has also given me an appreciation for translating those academic discussions to the policy world, which is something I would like to continue to do in the future, whether or not I stay in academia after defending.

How did your PSIA experience contribute to preparing for PhD?

Aside from the above-mentioned points, my Master’s thesis was the main experience that made me decide I wanted to go for the PhD. It was the moment when things clicked for me in terms of my research interests. I simply enjoyed it too much not to continue! I was lucky to have a very supportive supervisor who helped me to eventually publish the Master’s thesis as a journal article, which undoubtedly gave me a sense of academic legitimacy and an edge in future applications. 

What advice would you give to current students?

If you are interested in a PhD, do take on a Master’s thesis (particularly if you already have experience from internships, as many PSIA students do). It will be a good test for finding your motivation. Do not hesitate to reach out to professors who have not taught you or who work in other disciplines to see what possibilities might be out there. You may be less “siloed” than you think. Regardless of whether or not you end up on the PhD track, a Master’s thesis sharpens your skills for synthesizing large amounts of complicated information, which is a valued skill in many types of jobs.


Virtual Graduate Open House day, October 2024

Graduate Open House Day

On 19 October 2024: meet faculty members, students and representatives and learn more about our 30 Master's programmes.