Why Do We Know So Little About Terrorism? Articles uri icon

publication date

  • October 2014

start page

  • 590

end page

  • 601


  • 4


  • 40

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0305-0629

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1547-7444


  • We have less substantive knowledge about terrorism than about civil war, interstate war, genocide, or ethnic violence. I argue that this is due to the ambiguity of the concept of "terrorism." This ambiguity hinders empirical research, making the selection of cases for empirical research a contentious issue. Today, most scholars avoid the issue by relying on the existing datasets, without questioning the coding rules. But a close look at these rules reveals that they do not escape from the intrinsic ambiguity of the concept. I argue for a better integration between thick description and statistical analysis of terrorism as a way of overcoming the disagreements on the nature of terrorist violence.


  • civil war; conflict; terrorism; civil-war; domestic terrorism; suicide terrorism; counterterrorism; violence; democracy; poverty; side