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Research overview

Studying American culture and history illuminates the crucial role the U.S. has played in shaping the modern world, as well as the tensions around race, class, and gender that have fuelled the expression and reception of the nation's founding values.

Our department houses the largest concentration of U.S.-focused postgraduates and academics in Britain and is dedicated to examining the full breadth of this history.

If you already have a clear idea of the area and topic you wish to research as a PhD then you can effectively lay the ground work for this by doing a masters by research.

Particular areas of research specialism include:

  • African American literature, history and culture
  • American art and visual culture
  • American intellectual history
  • American labour history
  • American music and popular culture
  • American political history
  • American print culture and book history
  • Asian American literature and culture
  • Border studies
  • Civil rights and social justice
  • Contemporary American fiction
  • Crime, prisons and criminal justice
  • Feminist theory
  • Gender and queer studies
  • Indigenous culture
  • Latinx culture
  • Memory Studies
  • Nineteenth-century American literature and culture
  • US foreign policy

Find out more about our research specialities, partners and knowledge exchange activity.

Course content

You will take 180 credits made up of a selection of taught modules worth 60 credits and a 25,000-word research dissertation, worth 120 credits.

You will agree the topic with your supervisors (usually two co-supervisors). The dissertation is submitted at the end of the year and is marked by both an internal and external examiner. There is the possibility of a viva to confirm the award.

You will also attend research training sessions and weekly graduate work-in-progress seminars.

Work-in-progress sessions are led by the research student community. They provide an opportunity for everyone to present their ongoing research to their peers, supervisors and invited members of academic staff and research students and receive feedback and support from that community. You will contribute a paper in semester two.

Core module

This module will consist of the selection, research and writing up of 25,000 word dissertation worth 120 credits in the field of American and/or Canadian Studies, chosen after consultation with the Course Director and other appropriate staff members.

Optional modules

You will take 60 credits from the following:

We will help you to apply your arts MA across society to enhance your career and contribute to wider society.

We'll demonstrate how the arts can be used to:

  • transform society, politics and culture
  • enhance the careers of arts and humanities MA students.

You'll be able to explore, explain and then detail how your disciplinary skills can impact upon wider issues to emphasise the applicability of the arts and humanities. From the role of the scholar activist to understanding ‘knowledge transfer’ and ‘public engagement’, you'll develop professional skills in preparation for a career within academia or across a range of sectors.

You will:

  • harness the ways in which the arts and humanities enable us to think differently and to innovate
  • work on issues of research, networking, grant-writing and cultural exchange
  • learn how to engage, communicate and create.

This module is worth 20 credits.


This module offers an overview and analysis of the various approaches to American Studies. It requires you to develop a reflexive understanding of the development of American Studies as a field of enquiry.  Moving chronologically across more than 200 years of American culture,  departmental experts in a particular American Studies discipline will assign and discuss some examples of her/his published work (an article or book chapter), discussing not only the content, but also how the work fits within the field of American Studies, and the process of writing and researching in this area. 

This module introduces you to the key Research Skills required for successful completion of an MRes in any discipline within the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies. It will enable you to become more effective researchers and develop a range of transferable professional skills—from writing and presentation to public engagement and project management.

This module is required for the successful completion of an MRes in the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies. It will enable students to become more effective researchers and develop a range of transferable professional skills—from writing and presentation to public engagement and project management. 

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2021 entry.

Undergraduate degree

2:1 (or international equivalent) in an arts, humanities or social science subject

Undergraduate degree

2:1 (or international equivalent) in an arts, humanities or social science subject

International and EU equivalents

We accept a wide range of qualifications from all over the world.

For information on entry requirements from your country, see our country pages.

IELTS7.0 (no less than 6.5 in each element)
English language requirements

As well as IELTS (listed above), we also accept other English language qualifications.

This includes TOEFL iBT, Pearson PTE, GCSE, IB and O level English.

English language support

If you need support to meet the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional course. Our Centre for English Language Education is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

For presessional English courses, you must take IELTS for UKVI to meet visa regulations.

If you successfully complete your presessional course to the required level, you can then progress to your degree course. This means that you won't need to retake IELTS or equivalent.

We recognise that applicants have a variety of experiences and follow different pathways to postgraduate study.

We treat all applicants with alternative qualifications on an individual basis. We may also consider relevant work experience.

If you are unsure whether your qualifications or work experience are relevant, contact us.


Our step-by-step guide contains everything you need to know about applying for postgraduate research.

How to apply


Home / UK£4,496 (estimate)

UK fees are set in line with the national UKRI maximum fee limit. The figures shown above match the limit for 2020 entry. We expect fees for 2021 entry to be confirmed in February 2021.

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland starting your course in the 2021/22 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our Brexit information for future students.

Additional costs

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles.


Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Programme

The Midlands4Cities programme provides funding, enhanced support, expert supervision and excellent networking opportunities for PhD candidates.

M4C logo

Apply to become an M4C student at the University of Nottingham

There are many ways to fund your research degree, from scholarships to government loans.

Our step-by-step guide contains everything you need to know about funding your postgraduate degree.

Research funding


The department offers:

  • advanced research training
  • frequent reviews and feedback on progress
  • departmental research seminars/work in progress sessions
  • support for research trips and conference attendance
  • inter-library loan

The school's energetic research culture also involves a programme of visiting speakers and regular symposia organised by staff and students.

You will be encouraged to organise and attend conferences, act as editors for postgraduate journals, and publish book reviews and articles.

There are regular opportunities to take part in outreach activities, public talks and departmental events. In addition to serving as Departmental Outreach and Engagement Coordinators and Directors of our LGBT and Black History Month programmes, students are given logistical and financial support in order to run their own conferences and organise a week-long research retreat.

Expert Supervision

You will have two supervisors who are an active part of our established research staff.

They will:

  • regularly read your work
  • attend your works-in-progress presentation
  • provide frequent reviews and feedback

View staff profiles for the Department of American and Canadian Studies.

Researcher training and development

The Researcher Academy supports all postgraduate researchers at the University.

You can develop your research skills through:

  • paid work placements
  • training courses
  • public engagement opportunities

Student support

You will have access to a range of support services, including:

  • academic and disability support
  • childcare services
  • counselling service
  • faith support
  • financial support
  • visa and immigration advice
  • welfare support

Where you will learn

University Park Campus

University Park Campus covers 300 acres, with green spaces, wildlife, period buildings and modern facilities. It is one of the UK's most beautiful and sustainable campuses, winning a national Green Flag award every year since 2003.

Most schools and departments are based here. You will have access to libraries, shops, cafes, the Students’ Union, sports village and a health centre.

You can walk or cycle around campus. Free hopper buses connect you to our other campuses. Nottingham city centre is 15 minutes away by public bus or tram.


Whether you are considering a career in academia, industry or haven't yet decided, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Expert staff will work with you to explore PhD career options and apply for vacancies, develop your interview skills and meet employers. You can book a one-to-one appointment, take an online course or attend a workshop.

Our postgraduates go onto work in a range of fields, from university lectureships and post-doctoral fellowships to roles in the media, art councils and the creative industries.

Many of our research students publish high-quality books and articles and have secured teaching positions in universities both in the UK and abroad.

78.4 % of postgraduates from the Faculty of Arts secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary was £23,045*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

An interest in the remarkable cultural transformations which America underwent from the colonial period to the early twentieth century underpins all my research. The crucial role that periodicals, printing technologies, plays, novels and letter-writing have played in shaping America's relationship with Europe, and the nation's founding values’ expression and contestation through these media, is the recurring focus of my published work. I see such cultural forces as invaluable tools for considering the particular tensions around race, class, and gender that define the American experience, and how different artistic forms can be used to include and exclude certain social groups.
Dr Matthew Pethers, Assistant Professor in American Intellectual and Cultural History

Related courses

Research Excellence Framework

We are ranked 8th in the UK for research power (2014). The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system used by UK higher education funding bodies to assess research quality in universities.

  • Highest ranked American Studies department in the country for research power and research impact
  • More than 97% of research at Nottingham is recognised internationally
  • More than 80% of our research is ranked in the highest categories as world-leading or internationally excellent
  • 16 of our 29 subject areas feature in the UK top 10 by research power

This content was last updated on 13 October 2020. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.