Terrorism: A Study in Scarlet

Course Documents

An apropos photograph of a beach sculpture in Scheveningen, Netherlands.

The Most Important Course Documents

These first documents need to be downloaded and read by each member of the class, as the fundamental guidelines for the course are provided therein.


The course syllabus lists the general requirements and expectations for the course. All specifics for the course and for the assignments mentioned in the syllabus can be located on this website. Check both the syllabus and this website for instructions regarding assignments.
Each professor should make available to the students a syllabus of the course. This syllabus needs to include such information as an outline of the course topics, a listing of necessary assignments, a schedule of test dates, and the grading policy. Why? The syllabus serves as an ‘offer’ between the student and the professor. A syllabus does not remove the student’s responsibility for attending class sessions, nor does it constrain the professor from changing the specific elements of the syllabus.

Style Sheet

The course stylesheet explains how to format all papers for this class. All papers that you hand in for credit, except for in-class activities, must adhere to this stylesheet. Failure to adhere closely to the stylesheet may result in you failing to pass this course. At the very least, a student who does not follow the stylesheet will not receive as many points as he/she would otherwise receive.


This document explains and shows how to properly reference all of your works for this class. The APSA is the American Political Science Association. This document provides explanations how to properly cite and reference your sources. The easiest way to fail this class is to fail to cite and reference your sources. The easiest way to lose points in this class is to fail to cite and reference properly.
What information must be cited? There is no need to cite facts deemed ‘common’ knowledge. How do we define common knowledge? If the ‘common’ person knows it as a fact, then it is common knowledge. However, there are two exceptions to this rule: if your entire argument centers on a fact, or if the fact is contentious in the discipline (though not contentious to the common person). In both of these cases, cite the fact. It is better to over-cite than under-cite.
Wikipedia is a wonderful encyclopedia, and Dictionary.com is a fantastic dictionary—both are available online 24/7/365. However, neither are acceptable sources for any work you do in this course. The reason Wikipedia is not acceptable is identical to the reasons encyclopedias are not, in general, acceptable: they are excellent tertiary sources. A primary source is a first-hand account of an event. A secondary source is an analysis using primary sources. A tertiary source is summary or compilation of primary and/or secondary sources. Each level we move out introduces inaccuracies and blurring of the differences between terms and theories within the discipline. Encyclopedias are quaternary sources. As such, they give good general background on items, but do not successfully distinguish the fine shades of meaning. This is also the reason using dictionaries is not acceptable. The audiences are the general public. As such, words are used in different ways than we use them in the discipline.

Evaluation Instruments

The First Planned Quiz

You will be taking the first of two planned quizzes on Wednesday, February 13, 2008. To make your lives much happier, I have decided to give you a review sheet. That would be this paper.

The Second Planned Quiz

You will be taking the second of two planned quizzes on Wednesday, March 19, 2008. To make your lives much happier, I have decided to give you a review sheet. That would be this paper.

The Final Examination

Your answers are due on May 2, 2008, at 9:40 am. If your answers are late, they are worthless. If I receive your answer by Sunday, April 27, 2008, 11:59 pm, I will give you a 10% bonus. If you did not receive an examination, or if you have misplaced your copy, you can download both the test directions and the Florin information sheet.

Major Assignments

Here are links to the descriptions for the major assignments for the course.

The Definitions of Terrorism

According to the philosophy of science, two quantities are commensurable if they can be measured in the same (conceptual) units. Commensurability is of great importance in science because it allows things learned about one concept to apply to the other, which allows science to build upon itself. For instance, if I know that microwaves and radio waves are commensurable, and if I know that radio waves are able to travel through a vacuum by varying the electric and the magnetic fields, then I know that microwaves are also able to move through a vacuum by varying the electric and magnetic fields. Commensurability allows us to build on the experiments and findings of others.
This activity explores the differences in the definitions of terrorism in the research literature. It is broken into two separate parts. The first part (due on January 18) has you locate different definitions of terrorism as used in the extant literature. The second part (due on January 28) has you apply one of those definitions to three years worth of deaths during the Troubles to determine the significance of the difference. The dataset you need to use can be found here. To download the file, right-click on the link and select ‘Save Link As...’ or ‘Save Target As...’, or ‘Download Linked File As...’. When you do download it, make sure you save it as a csv (comma-separated) file. Some versions of MSIE will try to save it as an html file. Thanks Bill.
Here are the tabulated results for the activity. Note the differences among the definitions for the years 1973, 1974, 1976, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1993, 1994, and 1996. Are the articles really studying the same phenomenon, or are they looking at different things? If the latter, what do we really know about terrorism?

The Quasi-Literature Review

What causes terrorism? This seems to be one of the greatest answered questions of our time—yes, answered. The answers fill the literature on terrorism—yes, answers. But, which factors are most important in determining when a group, any group, will decide to begin using terrorism? Does it really matter if a group is in a democratic state, or does it only matter if that democratic state is weak? Does it really matter if a group is being culturally repressed, or does it only matter if that repression includes economic repression? The answers are important; they allow us to fine-tune our understanding of terrorism and terrorists so that we can begin creating policies that successfully reduce the chance of a group resorting to terrorism.
This assignment allows you to focus on the effects of one factor (a.k.a. independent variable, cause, or correlate) on terrorism. This quasi-literature review differs from a genuine one only in its emphasis on a single factor. In a full literature review, you would not only focus on the effects of one factor, you would also examine all other known correlates.
All of the QLRs I received are now posted on the Blackboard site. I had to offload them to this site for security (and FERPA) reasons. Please read through them to get an idea of what works and what does not. You will also be responsible for the material in each of the QLRs for the final in this course.
Here are some notes from your first QLRs:
  • Follow the outline provided in the QLR assignment description sheet. Those lines with the solid bullet are your first-level headings. Use the same name as provided.
  • I suggest that you name the factor you are examining; however, if I cannot tell what factor you are examining, you have a major problem.
  • This is a review of the literature; make sure you review the literature and not a single article. Reviewing single articles is for the Article Analysis assignment, not the QLR. Notice that the best QLR1s had long reference lists, not short. Size does matter; it affects the quality of your work.
  • Check that you are using the correct reference style for your reference list.
  • Proofread your paper.
  • Those of you who failed the first QLR did so because you did not follow the directions. Follow the directions.
I have posted a document providing the list of assigned topics for your second Quasi-Literature Review.

Article Analyses

During the semester, you will be responsible for analyzing four articles and leading the class discussion on those articles. Consider the Article Analysis as structured note taking on the article. As such, it needs to closely align with the outline below. Also, reading through the notes on the back should help you, and the other members of the class, get the most out of the Article Analyses.
Which are your four articles? Here is the list of articles for which you are responsible. The first set of analyses are due on March 10. This should give you plenty of time to read the assignment, read the article, and really think about the strengths and weaknesses of the article. If you are assigned one of my articles, I expect you to pick out the weaknesses (and strengths) just like all of the other articles; it is not perfect.

In-Class Activities

Terrorist Groups

On the week of February 4, we will be discussing some terrorist groups. Each student will be assigned on type of terrorist group and will be responsible for learning about two groups that fit that type. Be able to speak for approximately five minutes on each of the two groups. Things you may wish to know are its purposes, its strength, its level of violence, its successes, its failures, and its history. There are many places you can locate information about terrorist groups. The Terrorism Knowledge Base makes a good source, as does the Federation of American Scientists and the US Department of State’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.

Terrorism Datasets

Global Terrorism Database

The Global Terrorism Database (GTD), formerly of MIPT/TKB fame, is an open-source database including information on terrorist events around the world since 1970 (currently updated through 2004). Unlike many other event databases, the GTD includes systematic data on international as well as domestic terrorist incidents that have occurred during this time period and now includes almost 80,000 cases. For each GTD incident, information is available on the date and location of the incident, the weapons used and nature of the target, the number of casualties, and—when identifiable—the identity of the perpetrator.

Project Civil Strife: Intranational Conflict-Cooperation Event Data Sets

Project Civil Strife develops a theory of multi-actor government-dissident behavioral interactions and specifies empirical time series models to test a number of hypotheses implied by the theory. In doing so, the research addresses issues in multiple literatures with respect to civil conflict. Though more internal conflicts than international conflicts exist in the world today, most of the political science conflict literature focuses on international disputes and wars. There are of course exceptions, but while there are several studies which address civil war, only a few systematic empirical studies focus on the day to day interactions of governments and dissidents. Of those studies, fewer focus on explaining both government behavior directed towards dissidents and dissident behavior directed towards governments. Of those few studies that do, fewer examine both conflictual and cooperative behavior. Moreover, all of these studies aggregate all dissident groups (teachers, students, guerrillas, even opposition parties, etc) together when exploring how governments and dissidents behave towards one another.

Terrorism in Western Europe: Events Data

The data set Terrorism in Western Europe: Events Data, or TWEED for short, was constructed and collected by Dr. Jan Oskar Engene for the purpose of analysing patterns of terrorism in Western Europe as related to historical and structural preconditions—see Jan Oskar Engene: Terrorism in Western Europe: Explaining the trends since 1950, Cheltenham UK/Northampton MA, USA: Edward Elgar, 2004.
TWEED contains information on events related to internal (or domestic) terrorism in 18 West European countries. The countries covered are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Sutton Index of Deaths

The Sutton index contains information on the deaths that have resulted from the conflict in Ireland between 14 July 1969 and 31 December 2001. The information has been provided by Malcolm Sutton and is an updated and revised version of the material that was first published in his 1994 book Bear in mind these dead… An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland 1969-1993.

International Terrorism: Attributes of Terrorist Events (ITERATE)

Edward F. Mickolus is a well-recognized lecturer, writer, and authority on terrorism. He is the author of a dozen previous volumes on international and transnational terrorism. The ITERATE dataset is available for purchase from Vineyard Software, Inc. It is also available to Creighton University students for use in classwork and research.

Associated Databases

International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance is an international intergovernmental organization. Its programmes aim to provide knowledge to democracy builders, provide policy development and analysis, and support democratic reform.

Readings List

Here is a listing of all of the readings for this course and where to find some of them. This list may be updated throughout the semester as necessary. I last modified the readings list on Wednesday, January 9.
  • As promised, the reading list was not finalized. The new reading list, updated on January 9, takes into consideration information sent to me by the library. As a result, I removed three readings from the list. Additionally, three readings are only available at Reinert Library—all readings from the Istanbul Conference on Democracy & Global Security book.