Contemporary Terrorism Studies
Guidance on accessing databases
The following is a list of publicly available quantitative and qualitative databases on terrorism and political violence which will help you with your research. While most of the major quantitative repositories can be downloaded immediately, a few require either registration or a request to access the data. It should be noted that these datasets come in various formats (Stata, SPSS, R, CVS). It is recommended that students familiarize themselves with the methodology involved in collecting the data and coding it prior to using the data.
GTD - https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/about/
The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) is a database of terrorist incidents from 1970 onward. The database is maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, College Park in the United States. The GTD team of 15-20 currently uses a machine-learning model to classify digital and print media and isolate the small subset of articles that refer to terrorist attacks. Many quantitative analyses of terrorism use this database.
RDWTI - https://www.rand.org/nsrd/projects/terrorism-incidents.html
The RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents (RDWTI) is a compilation of data from 1968 through 2009.The database provides comprehensive information on international and domestic terrorism. With over 40,000 incidents of terrorism coded and detailed, the quality and completeness of the RDWTI is considerable. RAND staff conducted research on candidate terrorist attacks, drawing on staff with regional expertise, relevant language skills, and in-country field work experience. The RDWTI is a fully searchable and interactive database, with the intention of providing quality and comprehensive data to users. The database is free and publicly accessible for research and analysis.
ITERATE – The database is not open source and a fee is required. You may need to contact your university library
The International Terrorism: Attributes of Terrorist Events (ITERATE) project quantifies data on the characteristics of transnational terrorist groups, their activities that carry international impact and the environment in which they operate. It is one of the most comprehensive databases of its type; most academic research in the field stems from either ITERATE or the Global Terrorism Database. Published by Vinyard Software, it is available as a qualitative textual chronology from 1960 to present and a quantitative numerically coded database from 1968 to present.
TWEED - https://bora.uib.no/bora-xmlui/handle/1956/2080
The Terrorism in Western Europe: Event Data (TWEED) is a regional dataset on internal terrorism covering the period 1950 through 2004 for 18 West European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). By limiting itself to internal terrorism, the TWEED data set only includes events initiated by agents originating in the West European countries. In the TWEED data set, data has been collected for the period from 1950 to 2004. In total, 11,026 events are recorded in the TWEED data set.
Database on Suicide Attacks (DSAT) - https://cpost.uchicago.edu/research/suicide_attacks/database_on_suicide_attacks
The Database on Suicide Attacks (DSAT or CPOST-DSAT) is a database maintained by the Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) at the University of Chicago. The database is publicly available and contains specific information for all suicide attacks committed in modern history, from 1982 through 2019. Event records in the DSAT are highly detailed and coded for over 60 variables (not including source information). The database was the main reference used by political scientists Robert Pape in his work on suicide terrorism.
Lone Actor Terrorism Database - https://icct.nl/project/lone-actor-terrorism-database/
The Countering Lone Actor Terrorism (CLAT) focuses on data collection and analysis related to lone actor terrorism in Europe. The project is maintained by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT), an independent think tank that specializes in terrorism and counter-terrorism.
Correlates of War Project - https://correlatesofwar.org/
The Correlates of War (COW) Project has contributed significantly to the scientific study of war and conflict. This project was founded by political scientist J. David Singer at the University of Michigan in 1963. Concerned with collecting data about the history of wars and conflict among states, the project has driven forward quantitative research into the causes of warfare. The Correlates of War website provides separate data sets (in different formats) including wars between or among non-state entities which may be relevant to scholars of terrorism.
UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset 1946–2014 - https://www.prio.org/Data/Armed-Conflict/UCDP-PRIO/
The Department of Peace and Conflict Research at the University of Uppsala has collaborated with the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the International Peace Research Institute to produce a conflict dataset with information on armed conflict (internal and external) per year since 1946. The latest version covers the time between 1946 and 2014.
Global Terrorism Index (GTI) - https://www.economicsandpeace.org/reports/
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is a report published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). The index provides a comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism since 2000. It is an attempt to systematically rank the nations of the world according to terrorist activity. The index combines a number of factors associated with terrorist attacks to build an explicit picture of the impact of terrorism, illustrating trends, and providing a data series for analysis by researchers and policymakers. It produces a composite score in order to provide an ordinal ranking of countries on the impact of terrorism.
Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) - https://www.state.gov/terrorist-designations-and-state-sponsors-of-terrorism/
The Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) is a designation for non-United States-based organizations deemed by the United States Secretary of State, in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (INA), to be involved in what US authorities define as terrorist activities. Most of the organizations on the list are Islamist extremist groups, nationalist/separatist groups, or Marxist militant groups. The US Department of State also publishes an annual report entitled ‘Country Reports on Terrorism’ (https://www.state.gov/country-reports-on-terrorism/) that covers developments in countries in which acts of terrorism occurred, countries that are state sponsors of terrorism, and countries determined by the Secretary of State to be of particular interest to the USA. Beginning with the report for 2004, it replaced the previously published ‘Patterns of Global Terrorism’.
Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN) - https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/
Founded back in 1996, the Conflict Archive of the Internet (CAIN) is a vast repository of both primary source material and background information on 'the Troubles' in Northern Ireland from 1968 to the present. It contains the Sutton Index of deaths in the Troubles that spans the years 1969 to 2001. It also hosts digitized records from both the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and the National Archives of Ireland (NAI). There is also considerable material on society in the region: including bibliographies and photographic archives etc. CAIN is located at Ulster University.
Murals of Northern Ireland at Claremont Colleges Digital Library - https://ccdl.claremont.edu/digital/collection/mni
Mural painting and graffiti traditionally provides an important part of the backdrop to political conflict in Northern Ireland. This collection of over 4,500 visual images covers the period of 1979 to 2020. It documents a wide range of grassroots reactions to political change and violence. It was compiled by Professor Tony Crowley: and is housed by the Claremont Colleges, California.
Global History of Terrorism Archive (GHTA) - https://cstpv.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk
The Global History of Terrorism Archive (GHTA) is a vast newspaper clippings archive relating to terrorism and political unrest. Its coverage is mostly arranged by country: and mostly covers the period from the late 1970s to c. 1994. It is highly useful for getting both detail and atmosphere: especially for long-running conflicts. A strength is its range of coverage including sources that have never been digitized: researchers can study multiple reports of the same incidents side by side. Researchers have to access this collection physically at St Andrews University in Scotland: it is not digitized.
Jihadology - https://jihadology.net
Founded by Aaron Y. Zelin, Jihadology describes itself as the internet’s ‘clearing house for jihadi primary source material, original analysis, and translation service.’ As of 2021, it had over 13,000 articles and c. 750 GB of video material. This is an academic website maintained to promote academic research: but given the sensitivity of the subject matter, its successful survival is an achievement in itself. Registration is required for access.
Militant Imagery Project - https://ctc.usma.edu/militant-imagery-project/
The Militant Imagery Project gathers together terrorist visual propaganda ‘focusing largely on jihadist media production’. Collection occurred up to 2013: and the resulting dataset of images can be searched for specific visual motifs. Translations are supplied: and the project aims overall to assist researchers ‘with a basic contextual understanding of the ideas these images convey’; as well as analysis to their significance. The Militant Imagery Project is hosted by the Combating Terrorism Center, West Point, USA.
Trial and Terror - https://trial-and-terror.theintercept.com/
Trial and Terror is a database that archives the nearly 1,000 defendants charged with offences relating to International Terrorism in the USA since 2001. It is particularly useful for students interested in investigating counter-terrorist practices given the prominent (and controversial) use of ‘sting’ (i.e. entrapment) tactics in US Law Enforcement.
A more comprehensive discussion of terrorism databases can be found in Chapter 3 by Gary La Free.