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Researching Radicalisation & Counter-Extremism


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

At least one 200-level World Politics course, preferably from the "Global and Transnational Politics" track.


Radicalisation, extremism, political violence, and terrorism remain high on political agendas worldwide. Yet, for all the attention that this has gained, it is one of the most difficult subjects to study. This seven-week course examines various aspects of radicalisation and counter-extremism with a focus on research within this field. The course begins with two introductory classes; the first provides an overview of what terrorism is and how it can be defined. The second explains the fundamentals of writing a research proposal. The main focus during weeks two through six is on the theory and practice of researching radicalisation and counter-extremism. Each week revolves around a specific theme, presented occasionally by guest lecturers who are engaged in research on those very subjects. The lecturers will introduce their subjects in the first weekly session and discuss the challenges and opportunities posed by research in their fields in the second, sharing their practical insights and experiences. These case studies represent current trends in terrorism research, such as lone actor terrorism, foreign fighters, and homegrown jihadism.

Course Objectives

  • A basic understanding of what radicalisation is and how it has manifested itself in the modern era;

  • Awareness of the conceptual, theoretical, empirical, and practical challenges surrounding the field of research;

  • Practice in analysing the complex and ever-changing phenomenon of terrorism;

  • Awareness of some of the leading currents in counter-terrorism, counter-extremism and de-radicalisation research;

  • Practice writing and presenting a terrorism-related research proposal.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught through lectures provided by the course convener and a small number of guest lecturers. Heavy emphasis is placed on active participation by the students, in particular using statements prepared ahead of class. Students should also expect to be called upon to explicate various elements of a particular week’s readings to their colleagues. In week seven, students will give individual presentations about their ideas for research on radicalisation or counter-radicalisation-related topics.

Assessment Method

  • Students will hand in brief written statements (400 words +/- 10%, excluding sources) at the beginning of every second lecture of weeks 2, 4, and 6. These assignments are intended a) as starting points for discussion on that week’s topics and b) to familiarise the students with the literature-review element of their research proposals. This latter goal is accomplished by tasking students with highlighting the key elements (according to them) of the week’s readings, with special attention to any contrasting or conflicting findings or positions. The assignments will be explained in detail during the course’s introductory classes. These assignments will count for 30% of your grade.

  • Students are required to write an individual research proposal of 4.000 words (+/- 10%, excluding sources). Students are free to choose a topic, though it must fall within the broad field of terrorism or counterterrorism. Students can hand in a draft version of their research proposal at the beginning of week 4 to receive feedback and assistance from the lecturers. This is an optional service, and the draft versions will not be graded. The proposal counts for 40% of your grade. Proposals must be uploaded to TurnitIn and submitted to the course convener through email.

  • During week 7, students are expected to give a presentation on their research proposals, briefly outlining their subject, research question, the relevance of the research, which sources are used, and which opportunities or obstacles for gaining access to those sources are envisioned. The presentation must be short (a strict maximum of 8 minutes), forcing students to be concise and to the point. Each presentation will be followed by a brief discussion and questions. The presentations will count for 15% of your grade. A panel of subject-matter experts and researchers will grade the presentations.

  • Active participation in discussions during class is required and will count for 15% of the grade.

Reading list

To be announced.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Prof.dr. Tahir Abbas,