2 David Threlfall
 David Threlfall

David Threlfall

PhD Researcher

Department of Media and Communications

Connect with me

English, French, German
Key Expertise
Rhetoric, political communication, ideology, history of science/technology

About me

Research interests

Tracing the meaning of “technology”, “science” and “innovation” in UK and USA major political party rhetoric, 1945-2022: a comparative conceptual and ideological analysis

David doctoral research sits at the intersection of political communication, political studies (political “science”), political theory and the history of science and technology. Empirically, his PhD project investigates the use of three concepts—“technology”, “science” and “innovation” (or “TSI”)—in US and UK political rhetoric since 1945. Taking inspiration from conceptual history (a subdiscipline within intellectual history), David’s project analyses the evolution of these three concepts as political tools within rhetoric over this period, and furthermore seeks to interpret the intellectual origins of political party ideological thinking about “TSI”. Methodologically, the study proceeds in two steps: first, computer-assisted content analysis to illuminate patterns of conceptual use and evolution, and then rhetorical political analysis to develop a deeper political and historical analysis. This dual method combines computational, quantitative insight with deep, qualitative language analysis in a way uncommon to most studies employing rhetorical political analysis or other, similar methods of close analysis of language use.

SupervisorsDr Nick Anstead and Dr Damian Tambini


David’s research interests include political rhetoric and associated methods of political language analysis ((critical) discourse analysis), mixed methods in language analysis, political ideology and the politics of the history of science and technology. He also moonlights in public administration and public policy, particularly policy process theory and the (Australian) policy cycle.

David holds an MPhil in International Relations and Politics from the University of Cambridge (Distinction), where received a prize from the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) for the highest dissertation score in the cohort, and the St Edmund’s College Prize in recognition of academic excellence. He completed his undergraduate study at the University of Melbourne. He holds a fourth-year Honours Degree in Politics and International Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and French, and a Diploma of Languages in German (all First Class Honours).

Before returning to study, David worked for six years at the intersection of the higher education sector and government. From 2017 to 2019 he was chief of staff at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG). As chief of staff, David worked on organisational strategy, wrote speeches, lectures and submissions to government, was involved in the daily management of the School, and worked closely with civil service leaders in New Zealand and across the Australian federal and state & territory administrations. From 2013 to 2017, David worked in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at the University of Melbourne, supporting Professor Glyn Davis AC. David provided research assistance for a number of public policy projects, and before this worked in communications. Previously, David held roles in the Victorian Department of Education, and as a parliamentary intern with the Victorian State Parliament.

The LSE supports David’s doctoral studies through an LSE PhD Studentship. David is also an inaugural Ramsay Postgraduate Scholar, and in this capacity receives support from the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Expertise Details

Rhetoric; political communication; ideology; history of science/technology



Althaus, C., Ball, S, Bridgman, P., Davis, G. and Threlfall,D. (2023). The Australian Policy Handbook: A Practical Guide to the Policymaking Process, (7th ed). Routledge.

Book chapters

Althaus, C. and D Threlfall, D. (2021). ‘The policy cycle and policy theory: from theory building to policy making’, in B Hildreth, G Miller, and E Lindquist (eds), Routledge Handbook of Public Administration, (4th edn), Routledge, chapter 21.

Althaus, C. and Threlfall, D. (2021). ‘A quixotic quest: making theory speak to practice’ in T Mercer, R Ayres, B Head, and J Wanna. (eds), Learning policy, doing policy: the interaction between policy theory, policy practice and policy teaching, Australian National University (ANU) Press ANZSOG Series, chapter 2, pp. 29-48.

Selected op-eds and long-form writing

Threlfall, D. (2021). ‘Home, together, a family: Imagining a future when the present is purgatory’, Griffith Review 73: Hey, Utopia!, https://www.griffithreview.com/articles/home-together-a-family/

Althaus, C. and Threlfall, D. (2021). ‘Connecting theory to public sector practice’, The Mandarin, 28 June, https://www.themandarin.com.au/161329-connecting-theory-to-public-sector-practice/


Threlfall, D. (2020). ‘A great experiment: finding sanctuary for attention in the digital world’, Griffith Review 67: A matter of trust; https://www.griffithreview.com/articles/a-great-experiment

Althaus, C. and Threlfall, D. (2017). ‘Defining policy failure in the Australian public service’, Pursuit, 6 December, https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/defining-policy-failure-in-the-australian-public-service

Althaus, C. and Threlfall, D. (2017). ‘Game of Thrones and the underbelly of policy advice’, The Mandarin; https://www.themandarin.com.au/83251-game-thrones-underbelly-policy-advice/

Public lectures and conference presentations

Althaus, C. and Threlfall, D. (2018). ‘Winter is coming: lessons for public servants from Westeros’, address at IPAA National Conference, Melbourne, 17 October.

Althaus, C. and Threlfall, D. (2018). ‘A quixotic quest: making theory speak to practice’, ANZSOG/APS workshop lecture, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra, 9 July.



Executive Leadership and Management (PPMN90006), The University of Melbourne

Teaching assistant offering constructive feedback and analytical guidance to master’s students in an intensive six-day capstone subject for the Master of Public Policy and Management. This course was delivered online, and I also managed the Zoom connection and any IT issues for the cohort (70 students).