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Researching Terrorism and Counterterrorism




Admission Requirements

Similarly-tagged 200-level courses.


Terrorism continues to rank high on political agendas worldwide. Yet for all the attention that this phenomenon has gained, it is one of the most difficult subjects to study. This course examines various aspects of terrorism and counterterrorism with a focus on doing research within this field. The course begins with two introductory classes; the first explores the nature of terrorism and provides an overview of important developments from the 19th century onwards, the second explains the fundamentals of writing a research proposal. The main focus during following weeks is on the theory and practice of researching terrorism and counterterrorism. Each week, lecturers who are engaged in a variety of terrorism-related research will discuss the challenges and opportunities research design in this field poses. Subsequently, they will discuss the particular cases they are working on, sharing practical insights and experiences. These case studies represent current trends in terrorism research such as lone wolves, conspiracy theories, the Breivik case and the Hofstadgroup.

Course Objectives


  • To present students with theoretical notions and practical examples in order to better understand the problems and opportunities for conducting research on (counter) terrorism

  • To present and critique various research designs and approaches in terrorism research

  • To provide an overview of the state of the art in terrorism studies today

  • To challenge students to develop their own analysis of terrorism research by writing a paper on the practice of terrorism research


  • To be able to analyze the complex and ever-changing phenomenon of terrorism

  • To be aware of leading currents in terrorism and counter-terrorism research

  • To be able to write and present an in-depth research proposal

  • To be informed about the difficulties and dilemmas in terrorism and counter-terrorism research

Mode of Instruction

The course will consist of fourteen sessions dedicated to lectures and discussion in a workgroup setting. The first week will focus more on providing the students with the necessary information about writing a research proposal and an insight into the nature of terrorism, whereas weeks 3-6 are devoted to the presentation of theory and corresponding case-studies, inviting students to critically reflect and discuss the presented studies. The final week will be dedicated to presenting your own research proposals in small group sessions to the instructors. Students are expected to actively engage in discussion and provide evidence of their understanding of the theory by handing in a 300-500 word statement on the assigned literature every week in which they present their own opinion on the subject matter. Writing and presenting the research proposals will be done in small groups.


Assessment: Brief written assignments
Learning aim: Familiarize the students with crafting a research proposal
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: 24 hours before the beginning of every second lecture in weeks 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6

Assessment: Individual research proposal
Learning aim:
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Friday the 20th of December before 24:00

Assessment: Presentation on research proposals (max 10 minutes)
Learning aim: Discuss research dilemmas
Percentage: 30%



Contact Information


Weekly Overview

Week 1, session 1: Introduction: what is terrorism? Difficulties and dilemmas in terrorism research
Week 1, session 2: How to write a research proposal?
Week 2, session 3: Researching home-grown jihadist terrorism
Week 2, session 4: Case study: Researching the Hofstadgroup
Week 3, session 5: Researching lone wolf terrorism
Week 3, session 6: Case study: The role of conspiracy theories in political legitimacy
Week 4, session 7: Researching Terrorists on Trial
Week 4, session 8: Case study: The 22nd of July trial (Anders Behring Breivik)
Week 5, session 9: Researching intelligence and security agencies
Week 5, session 10: Case study: The Dutch intelligence agency, secret sources and hidden archives
Week 6, session 11: Researching reintegration and rehabilitation of terrorists
Week 6, session 12: Case study: ?
Week 7, session 13: Presenting research proposals by the students – Session I
Week 7, session 14: Presenting research proposals by the students – Session II

Preparation for first session