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:
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

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

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

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 7
Seminars 8
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 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will write one 4,000 word essay on selected topics. Non-submitted essays will be awarded a mark of zero. This will account for 100% of the module mark. 

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:

    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 within the specified resubmission period, emailed directly to politics@reading.ac.uk, AND submitted on Blackboard. 

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    1. Required text 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.

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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