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The State of the Art and its Discontents


Admission requirements

  • Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management, enrolled in the specialisation ‘Governance of radicalism, extremism and terrorism’, can take this course.


Critically reviewing existing research on terrorism requires a thorough understanding of how knowledge on this subject is produced and utilised by a range of actors both within and beyond the walls of the academy. This course will hone students’ ability to critically review academic knowledge by delving into some of the main dilemma’s facing terrorism scholars. These range from academic agenda setting (how are research topics and questions determined?) and methodological challenges (how to study a controversial phenomenon like terrorism) to the question of evaluation (how do we know whether the many applied studies have value?). Students will get to know the state of the art on terrorism studies, and specifically where it has fallen short in terms of topical coverage, concepts, methods and real-world impact. For instance, what have been the consequences of the field’s long-established difficulties with accessing reliable primary sources? The course will combine interactive working methods and team work with individual study.

Whether related to terrorism or another aspect of security studies, the ability to critically and dispassionately analyse important societal phenomena in both individual and group capacities is a key professional skill for those pursuing careers related to the management of crises and security challenges. Moreover, understanding and being able to critique knowledge production on controversial topics like (counter)terrorism is an important enabler of responsible citizenship, and crucial for informed policy formation and the development of relevant practices.

Course Objectives

After finalising this course, students are able to:

  1. Critically evaluate, based on advanced academic knowledge and understanding of the principles of academic research, existing research in the area of terrorism, from a conceptual, theoretical and methodological viewpoint by assessing research design, methodologies, and validity and reliability of empirical data;
  2. Understand the accomplishments and shortcomings of the academic study of terrorism in terms of topical focus, methodological and conceptual approaches, and real-world impact;
  3. Identify new and long-standing topics within terrorism research as well as those that have received little to no attention;
  4. Understand the main methodological, theoretical and conceptual approaches taken in the study of terrorism;
  5. Critically assess the degree to which research on terrorism is able to provide answers to practical issues surrounding the management of extremism-related threats;
    6 Critically assess the degree to which research on terrorism has been able to provide insights into fundamental academic questions, such as those surrounding terrorists’ behavior;
  6. Tailor the presentation of results to fit the needs of academic as well as policymaker and practitioner audiences;
  7. Learn to combine individual and group-work formats to complete the course assignments;
  8. Self-evaluate and reflect after interactive in-class work and individual assignments.


On the right side of programme front page of the e-Prospectus you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of Instruction

A combination of interactive lectures and activating workgroups (two sessions per week). In the lectures, students will learn the key principles of research, and the relevant concepts and methodologies. In the workgroups, students will practice research design and methods by applying the concepts, testing theories, and analysing empirical material. The workgroups will, amongst others, consist of in-class assignments, team performances, peer review and exercises and feature several compulsory formative (non-graded) assignments that will help the student prepare for the summative (graded) assignments.

Attendance is mandatory. Students are only allowed to miss a maximum of two sessions if there are special, demonstrable personal circumstances. The Board of Examiners, in consultation with the study advisors, will decide on such an exceptional exemption of mandatory attendance.

10 EC = 280 hours
Contact hours = 42 hours
Self-study hours = 238

In this 10 ects course, 4 ects is specifically reserved for the assignment that is going to be part of the portfolio of students, including working on their interim reflection paper as preparation for the final reflection paper. Specific information on the portfolio assignment and the intended learning outcomes that are being acquired will be published in the syllabus of this course.

Assessment method

Students are not obliged to hand in an assignment at the first opportunity in order to make use of the re-sit opportunity. The re-sit assignment will test the same course objectives, but will be different in terms of topics, cases or substance.

Individual paper assignment, 70% of final grade
Grade cannot be compensated, a 5,50 is required to pass the course.

Group assignment, 30% of final grade
Course can be compensated in case of a fail (grade < 5.50), resit not possible.

Peer-review assignment, group-based, completion is a course requirement (non-graded, fail in case of non-submission)

Additional, formative (non-graded) assignments are an obligatory part of the course.

The calculated grade of the assignments must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course.
If a student passed an assignment, it is not possible to participate in a re-sit in order to obtain a higher grade. Students are only permitted to resit the 70% assignment if they have a calculated overall course lower than 5.50.

Reading list

A selection of books and articles, to be announced on Brightspace.


Register for every course and workgroup via uSis.
Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results.

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. Important information about the course is posted here.
After enrolment for the course in uSis you are also enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


dr. Joana Cook
E-mail address TBA

Please see the in-class office hours as your first point of call for questions and comments and use email only for particularly pressing issues.