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A guide to begin research on political aspects of terrorism

What is terrorism?

Terrorism has both a commonly understood meaning and a legal meaning.  Before beginning your research understand how various terms are used.  

How will your choice of terms affect your search?   Do you need to use a more specific term (domestic terrorism, ecoterrorism, cyberterrorism).  Many databases will provide a thesaurus of terms, laying out how terrorism and related terminology are used in that resources. Look for this thesaurus in any database you use.  The brief video below walks you through locating the definition of terrorism in one database (The Index to Legal Periodicals).

Looking for data? How will these definitions affect the data you are using?  Check data definitions to be sure it is measuring what you think it is measuring. Look in code books and user manuals for this information.

Researching at an organization's website?  Try to determine how they are defining terrorism.  How do the law enforcement and national security agencies or international organizations define terrorism?  Some organizations, such as the U.N. have no agreed upon definition of terrorism.

A few basic definitions of terrorism in the U.S. law are listed below.

Where to begin your research

  • If you are new to the topic of terrorism, consider beginning with Encyclopedias and Handbooks.  Encyclopedias will give you a broad overview of your topic while the handbook and annual reviews are excellent sources to begin your literature review.
  • LionSearch and Google Scholar allow you to do cross disciplinary searching for journal articles.
  • The Find Articles tab recommends subject databases and allows you to focus and refine your search.
  • The remaining tabs will help you locate specific types of resources with links to agencies and organization, key reports and data sources.  

If you have suggestions for additions to this guide, please contact me.