AMERG002: Researching the Americas: The United States

Course convenor: Prof Iwan Morgan

This is a core course for students taking the M.A. in US Studies: History and Politics.

Its primary purpose is to provide a foundation for undertaking the research dissertation required by the programme in term 3 (or its p/t equivalent).  It also gives those students intending to undertake a research degree with some of the fundamentals of research skills.

The course introduces students to the conceptual and practical tools needed to undertake research in US modern history and political studies and examines the ways that these disciplines address the core academic questions of what and how to study.  To this end it provides an introduction to the nature of the evidence utilized by both disciplines and considers the research methods of each. 

It also gives practical guidance on how to identify a research topic, how to choose an appropriate methodology, and how to locate and evaluate sources. 

The assessment is based on a presentation (20%) and a research proposal (80%).  Drawing on the knowledge they have gained in the course about sources, methods, and design, students produce a research proposal that is the basis for their dissertation study.

20 contact hours
15 credits

Weekly syllabus

  1. Introduction: Research and the Dissertation
  2. Varieties of primary evidence and their utility – 1
  3. Varieties of primary evidence and their utility – 2
  4. Quantitative data: an introduction
  5. Image in history and politics
  6. Historians and the study of change: A case study of the New Deal
  7. The methods of political studies: Examining the presidency
  8. Researching foreign policy:  the approaches of history, political studies and international relations
  9. Research Design
  10. The Dissertation Proposal

Aims and Learning Objectives

  • To provide a practical introduction to the types of evidence used in the study of US history and politics
  • To exemplify through case studies different research approached of history and political studies 
  • To provide guidance and practical experience of research proposal design.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  • Distinguish between different types of evidence used in research of US modern history and politics
  • Understand how to apply different methods of research to the study of the US modern history and politics
  • Understand how to plan and execute independent research based on primary and secondary materials

Teaching and Learning Methods

The course consists of ten weekly classes of 2 hours. Each class will commence with a brief lecture and the remainder of the time will be spent on group discussion and practical work based on set preparation. 


Assessment is on the basis of a 3000-word dissertation proposal (80 percent of the final mark) and an oral presentation (20 percent). The oral presentation must be passed in order to pass the module as a whole.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb and Joseph Williams, The Craft of Research (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2003)
  • Martha Howell and Walter Previner, From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Method (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2002)
  • Raymond Tatalovich and Thomas Engerman, The Presidency and Political Science (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003)
  • John Ikenberry, ed., American Foreign Policy: Theoretical Essays (New York: Longman, 2004)