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Researching Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism




Admissions requirements

At least one 200-level WP course, preferably from the Transnational Politics track.


Terrorism remains 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 seven-week 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 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 terrorism and counterterrorism. Each week revolves around a specific theme, presented 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 conducting research in their fields during the second, sharing their practical insights and experiences. These case studies represent current trends in terrorism research such lone actor terrorism, foreign fighters, and homegrown jihadism.

Course objectives

  • A basic understanding of what terrorism 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 current in terrorism research;

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


Once available, timetables will be published in 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 through the use of 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 7, students will give individual presentations about their ideas for research on a terrorism or counterterrorism related topic.


  • 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 familiarize 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 for 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 and 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 have the opportunity to hand in a draft version of their research proposal at the beginning of week 4 in order 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, 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 short discussion and questions. The presentations will count for 15% of your grade. The presentations will be graded by a panel of subject-matter experts and researchers.

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

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

To be announced in the course syllabus.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Bart Schuurman, Ph.D.