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Research overview

Our research focuses on North America itself as well examining the exchange of influences between North American cultures and those of Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Work in the department reflects and leads a growing transnational agenda and research students are encouraged to think about America in a global context.

We are the largest department of American and Canadian studies in Europe and have long-standing experience and expertise in supervising PhDs to successful completion. 

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:

Course content

You will complete a written thesis of up to 100,000 words.

The topic will be agreed with your supervisors (usually two co-supervisors).

You will also take a verbal examination (viva voce) at the end of your thesis where you explain your project in depth to an examination panel.

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.

Recent PhD topics

  • The architecture of shopping malls
  • 1960s new social movements
  • The NAACP and visual culture
  • Southern culture and the novel of racial passing
  • The state funeral in the 1960s
  • The Vietnam War and US poetry
  • Race, rock'n'roll and Blues music
  • Female hobos
  • The 1960s in political cinema
  • Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X in international context
  • Frank Sinatra on film
  • Asian North American literature
  • Individual authors including Herman Melville, Cormac McCarthy, Barbara Kingsolver, Dionne Brand, and Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Suburbia and 20th-century fiction
  • US regionalism and the short story US and British Policies towards Israel Britain, the US and the Atomic Bomb
  • The American Far Right
  • The Know Nothing Party
  • The American Left post-1970
  • Border studies
  • Cultural representations of major cities

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

For PhD study, we would usually expect you to hold or be working towards a masters degree in a relevant subject

Undergraduate degree

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

For PhD study, we would usually expect you to hold or be working towards a masters degree in a relevant 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.


In order to apply, you must submit a research proposal of approximately 1000 words, outlining your key area of investigation and primary research questions, the existing scholarship in the field and your intervention into the debates therein, and the kinds of sources you will be using.

Applicants are encouraged to send a draft proposal to the Departmental Director of Postgraduate Research (currently Gillian Roberts: for feedback prior to submitting their application.

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

How to apply


Home / UK£4,496 (estimate) per year
International£19,000 per year

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 Notitngham

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. Many former students have successfully turned their PhDs into books with major presses including Oxford University Press, Manchester University Press, University of California Press, University of Illinois Press, Routledge and Palgrave.

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.

Students also act as teaching assistants, after appropriate teacher training offered by the University and the school. Teaching Assistants are supported and monitored by module convenors, the Chair of Teaching Committee and the Director of Research.

Expert Supervision

We encourage you to get in touch with a member of academic staff about your research proposal before submitting an application. They will be able to help you with your proposal and offer support to find funding opportunities in your area.

You can find our academics listed across three broad themes:

Researcher Academy

The Researcher Academy is the network for researchers at the University of Nottingham. As a postgraduate researcher, you will have access to our members’ area, which includes online resources, training courses and award-winning postgraduate placements.

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.

The average annual salary for postgraduates from the School of Cultures, Languages and Areas Studies was £21,855*

*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 in the Research Excellence Framework
  • 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 09 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.