AM4001 - Introduction to American Studies

What will I learn on this module?

This module offers a practical and historical introduction to American Studies as a distinct, multifaceted, and evolving discipline, while also allowing you to acquire and practice key learning, research, and communication skills which will be of use throughout your university career and beyond. The module is content driven, with readings and themes drawn from across the entire range of American history, literature, politics, and popular culture, but particular emphasis will be placed on helping you to understand and master the basic tools and protocols of academic scholarship, thereby helping you to make the transition from school to university level work.
The skills which this module will help you to develop will include finding, reading and evaluating various kinds of primary and secondary sources; understanding the ways in which scholarship advances through constructive criticism and debate; correct referencing; finding an effective academic writing style; making oral presentations; and designing, researching and writing an independent research project.

How will I learn on this module?

The module will be team-taught, allowing you to take advantage of the specialist knowledge of a range of academic staff. It will be taught by a mixture of lectures and seminars, coupled with a small Group Research Workshop and, if you choose to submit an optional proposal for your Independent Research Essay, a single 15-minute one-to-one tutorial with a subject specialist.
In lectures you will be introduced to key concepts and approaches within American Studies. Seminars will provide you with the opportunity to explore your own ideas and opinions through small-group exercises, presentations, and debate. Set reading and instructions for seminar preparation will direct your learning, helping you to examine and evaluate the ideas and approaches outlined in lectures.
In addition to learning during contact hours with the tutor and directed learning through seminar preparation, you will be expected to undertake independent learning. Independent learning generally will take the form of further reading and investigation, the consolidation of seminar notes, and revision/preparation for the assessment of the module. Assessments will allow you to develop both your knowledge of the discipline and skills that will help you make the transition to undergraduate level study. For example, the formative (practice) “Style, Sources, and Citations” exercise will help you to develop proficiencies in referencing, citation, and bibliography. All assessments are designed to help you develop your critical, research, analytic and evaluative skills. The blogging exercise, where you are invited to engage with online postings with Temple University students, enables you to learn by participating actively in the field of international American Studies.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Lectures will introduce you to practical, historical and theoretical concepts and contexts that will help you to develop your understanding of American Studies as a discipline and offer direction for further reading and research. The e-learning portal will provide helpful information about the module that you can draw on at any time. There you will find the module guide, which provides details of lectures, seminars, assessments and learning aims. You will also have access to the assessment criteria, a digital reading list, advice on how to present your written work, and all the presentation slides and handouts from lectures and seminars. The e-learning portal also contains information on the module tutor’s contact details and office hours. If you have any queries of concerns about the module or assessments you can speak to the tutor during lectures and seminars and also book an individual tutorial. Individual tutorials designed to help you prepare for your Independent Research Essay are built into the module programme in Semester 2.
Feedback from your earlier assessments will also provide you with advice on how to improve as you complete the assessments that follow. In addition, you have a designated Guidance Tutor throughout the entire duration of your programme. The academic side of the Guidance Tutor’s role includes:
• monitoring your ongoing academic progress
• helping you to develop self-reflection skills necessary for continuous academic development
• directing you to further available services which can help you with your academic skills (e.g. Library’s Skills Plus)

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Knowledge of the major developments and key concepts in American Studies as an evolving international field of interdisciplinary study

2. An understanding of the intellectual demands and expectations associated with scholarship in the Humanities in general, and in American Studies in particular

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

3. The ability to produce work in different formats which conforms to the intellectual and presentational standards expected of undergraduates

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

4. Development of curiosity through completing the Independent Research Essay
5. Development of global awareness through an understanding of the international dimensions of American Studies

How will I be assessed?

Formative (practice) assessment
1. You will be asked to complete a style, sources, and citation exercise online to test your grasp of the conventions of scholarly writing and referencing. After you have taken the test, a model answer will be made available on Blackboard so that you can so that you can learn from any mistakes you have made. This will address MLOs 2 and3

All students will be invited, though not required, to submit a formative Independent Research Essay Proposal up to 400 words, including a working bibliography and, if desired, a draft opening paragraph. Feedback on this will be provided in a one-to-one tutorial. This will address all MLOs, but particularly 2 and 5.

Summative (graded) assessment

You will submit a portfolio of work that includes the following:


1. A 300-word “blog” on an American icon or example of American influence, evident in contemporary Tyneside. (20%)
The blog will be submitted for assessment in the usual way via SASC, but will also be shared with students taking an “American Icons” course at Temple University, Philadelphia, via an appropriate open access site such as wordpress. Formal feedback will be provided using the Departmental template and comments on the script, but you will also gain informal comments and feedback from the Temple students, who will comment on the blog entries as part of their studies. This assessment addresses all MLOs, but, due to its transnational dimension, is particularly important in addressing MLO 5.

2. A 300-word “blog” response to online postings by Temple University students taking an “American Icons” module. (20%)
As with the first blog, this will be submitted via SASC and shared online with the Temple students. Similarly, feedback will be given as above. These blogging exercises will enable you to engage in, as well as to study, international American Studies. They will help you to broaden your perspective on the field in general and your appreciation of different responses to iconic expressions of American culture and power within a global context. Will this assessment addresses with all MLOs, it is therefore of special relevance to MLO 5.

3. 2,000-word Independent Research Essay (60%).
The assignment is designed to test your ability to plan, research and write a short interdisciplinary American Studies Research Essay, using at least some primary as well as secondary sources, deploying appropriate theoretical concepts, and displaying proper attention to scholarly conventions. It addresses all five MLOS, but has special relevance for MLO 4, as it is designed to foster the intellectual curiosity required to sustain longer pieces of independent research at Levels 5 and 6. Feedback will be provided using the Departmental template and comments on the script.





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Course info

UCAS Code T720

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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