PO2AMG1-American Government and Politics

Module Provider: School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Graham O'Dwyer

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

Summary module description:

This module examines the historical, ideological and constitutional frameworks of American politics. It analyses the main institutions of national government, including the presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court, together with the role of State politics. It also examines other important political phenomena, including political parties, interest groups and the role of the American media. The course then moves on to consider a range of key contemporary issues in the US including the death penalty, gun control, religion, race and equality, healthcare, welfare, immigration and foreign policy. 


To enable students to:

  • understand and analyse the origins and development of the political system of the United States;

  • understand and analyse the character and operation of contemporary American governmental institutions;

  • understand and analyse the interaction between government, the American public and other political actors;

  • understand and analyse important issues in contemporary American politics.

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

Outline content:

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

Week one: Business meeting, study skills summary and course overview lecture

Week two: Congress

Week three: The Presidency

Week four: The Supreme Court

Week five: Political Parties

Week six: Federalism

Week seven: Interest Groups

Week eight: The media

Week nine: Capital punishment

Week ten: Gun Control

Week eleven: Civil Rights


Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This module is taught through lectures and seminars. The classes require substantial preparatory reading and frequent contributions to discussion by all students.

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

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 80
Oral assessment and presentation 20

Other information on summative assessment:

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 80% of the module mark. Students will deliver one seminar presentation during the course of the module assessed at 20% of their module mark, and will also receive written feedback from the session leader.


Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (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.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    Overall pass mark of 40%.

    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.


    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    1. Required text books - £25.99

    There is no single textbook for this course. It is suggested that students purchase American Politics & Society by David McKay (Wiley-Blackwell ISBN-10:0470672633)

    Last updated: 23 November 2017

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