PO2AMG-American Government and Politics

Module Provider: School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Graham O'Dwyer

Email: g.m.odwyer@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module examines the historical, ideological and constitutional frameworks of American Government and Politics. It analyses the relationship between ideas and values (such as liberty and individualism) and the ways in which these condition the expression of the American political system; it looks at intermediate institutions that connect the public to the federal government (such as elections, the media, and interest groups); it explores the central institutions in Washington (such as the Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court), and assesses important policy areas (such as gun control); finally the module offers a concluding lecture on the state of American government and politics today.


To enable students to:

  • understand the relationship between ideas, political values, and a political system;

  • understand and analyse the origins and development of the America political system over time;

  • develop in-depth knowledge of American intermediate institutions;

  • develop in-depth knowledge of American federal institutions of government;

  • develop knowledge of specific policy areas and the ways in which the structures of American government condition these.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:

  • make empirical and normative judgements about politics in the United States;

  • demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the American governmental institutions and the actors who interact with and within government;

  • assess the effectiveness of American government in the light of contemporary political events;

  • demonstrate the ability to research and organise relevant scholarly materials in ways that produce effective written arguments in exams and essays.

Additional outcomes:

Students will also be able to:

• conduct research using the Internet and social media

• present effective oral arguments and analyses of American government

Outline content:

The following is indicative content and may be subject to minor changes.

Week One: Business meeting and course overview

Week Two: The American Political Tradition I

Week Three: The American Political Tradition II

Week Four: The American Constitutional Order

Week Five: Federalism in the American Context

Week Six: The Contemporary Media

Week Seven: Interest Groups

Week Eight: Federal Elections and the Electoral College

Week Nine: Congress I: the Electoral Connection

Week Ten: Congress II: Congress at Work

Week Eleven: The Presidency I: Historical Overview

Week Twelve: The Presidency II: Presidential Communication

Week Thirteen: The Supreme Court I: Functions and Cases

Week Fourteen: Gun Control and the Second Amendment

Week Fifteen: Assessing Trump’s America

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This module is taught through 14 lectures and 15 seminars. The classes require substantial preparatory reading and frequent contributions to discussion by all students. One revision class is held in the summer term. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 7 7
Seminars 8 7 1
Guided independent study 85 85
Total hours by term 100.00 99.00 1.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 50

Summative assessment- Examinations:
One three-hour examination.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will write one 3,000 word essay on selected topics. Non-submitted essays will be awarded a mark of zero. This will account for 50% of the module mark.

Visiting students will follow the same assessments but only those enrolled for the summer term will sit the examination. Those visiting students who are here for Autumn and Spring terms only but wish to gain full credits will also write a 4000 word essay in place of the examination, to be submitted by the first day of the summer term. Visiting students who are only studying for half credits in Autumn or Spring term will submit one 4000 word essay in total to be submitted at the end of the term attended.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    If a student fails to pass the year at the first attempt there is an opportunity to be re-assessed on one further occasion at the next opportunity in those modules achieving a mark of less than 40%. Students who are eligible for re-assessment have the right to re-assessment in all elements even if they have previously passed one of those elements. It is expected, however, that the majority of students would probably elect not to repeat an element in which they had already passed, in which case the confirmed marks would be carried forward.

    Coursework: Failed or missing coursework should be re-submitted by 1st August, emailed directly to politics@reading.ac.uk, AND submitted on Blackboard.

    Examination: Re-examination takes place in August/September of the same year.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    1) Required text books: Core Books

    Numerous texts books are suitable for this course but students are advised to purchase David McKay’s American Government and Society (2017) as the course will be based around the chapters in this book. Students will also be expected to read chapters from classic texts but PDFs of these will be provided.

    2) Specialist equipment or materials:

    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:

    4) Printing and binding: There may be optional costs associated with photocopying or printing sources listed on the reading list relating to this module. Please note that the Library charges approximately 5p per photocopy.

    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:

    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence: 

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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