Promise and Pitfalls of Terrorism Research
35 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2010
Date Written: April 28, 2010
Using a database of recent articles published in prominent political science journals, we show the rapid increase in terrorism research. Given this increased awareness and attention, we identify several problems that still plague the study of political terrorism including definitional problems, not distinguishing among different types of terrorism, and using the wrong unit of analysis when designing research. After identifying these problems especially as they relate to the quantitative study of terrorism, we suggest some solutions. We then apply these suggestions to investigate whether different types of terrorism, changing the definition of terrorism, or changing the unit of analysis affect key predictors of terror events cross-nationally. One of our tests consists of varying the unit of observation to include directed-dyads, which offers the potential to test some of the many strategic models of terrorism. Our analysis suggests that varying definitions of terrorism, such as military vs. non-military targets, might not be that consequential, whereas different types of terrorism, such as domestic vs. transnational, could be driven by fundamentally different processes. We also conclude that modeling transnational terrorism differently using directed dyads yields new and interesting insights into the process of terrorism.
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