This paper provides a detailed account of the theoretical issues that have existed with the researches on terrorism and also provides a clear view of the critical perspectives on terrorism researches. The study identifies extensive literature on terrorism based studies and offers a critical analysis of the approaches used and segregates between the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches that exist. The results reveal that mixed methodologies with epistemological design are adequate for terrorism researches and it is beneficial to avoid a judgmental attitude however the proposed system also provides a technique for customized selection of methodology.
Terrorism related studies have been into existence since a long time however there has been a drastic increase in the concerns related to terrorism due to which there has been a significant change in the model and thought process behind the latest researches that are happening in this domain1. Although, it is eventually a matter of fact that the research work on terrorism is primarily related to the past effects of incidents and an analysis on the history that has been associated with the same, the theories that are usually discussed as a part of these studies proclaim to be generated in nature however most of the times these theories are friends specific and do not offer concrete, rational understanding of similar happenings2.
Terrorism is a highly controversial subject and more importantly can be covered under the roof of various domains and therefore multiple methodologies can be successful in conducting detailed research work using intellectual paradigm however in order to be successful it is important to have a balanced approach including field research, ethical perspectives and qualitative and quantitative analysis. There is no doubt in the fact that there are multiple studies that exists today however there are various common issues with the interpretation of theories leading to lack of accuracy and precision along with a deficiency of empirical evidence to support the facts and figures that may have been arranged as a part of the research3.
Another major issue that has been ignored in the past is related to the dissemination of information in a terrorism research. The balance is lacking in the current studies and it is usually observed that the qualitative aspect of the studies provide a lot of information for analysis however at times there is an abundance of information however the processing piece is unable to provide the right shape to the research4. Similarly, the purely quantitative aspects of the research are directly criticized in this domain with the reason that ‘Terrorism’ is a social and political concept and therefore it needs to have strong qualitative definitions even if there is subsequent quantification for the purpose of data processing and to identify the results5. From an evaluation perspective it is easier to evaluate the weaknesses within the field of study than to identify the strengths and this is one of the reasons behind an abundance in literature that criticizes the various theories in practice however lacks in providing the positive areas, knowingly though it would be unfair to say that the field has greater weaknesses than it does strengths, thus providing the idea of this research to work as a guidance for future researches.
2. Definitional Issues
In order to proceed to deepen the research thoughts, it is important to understand what is meant by research. Creswell (2009) mentioned that by employing certain procedures if there is a specific study of a subject that provides description of an issue and creates effective merger of tangible material than the output as stated reflects research work. Neuman (2000) provides his views on the subject and he states that multi dimensional analysis of a specific aspect of subject is research if it provides a valid output that can be used for further analysis and understanding of the subject. Yin (2009) provides another similar view of the subject and mentions that a research is a “rationale for using multiple sources of evidence” in order to derive valuable information pertaining to a given subject.
The Orthodox methods of research of terrorism have lead to various issues in designing and creating a boundary for the discussions. There have been several studies that have intermixed the concepts of terrorism with those of political violence and communist theories. Hence it becomes an important factor to discuss about the various aspects and definitions of terrorism, related differences and biases6.
Although, terrorism has been defined in detail by various researchers from political, social and legal perspectives however it is important to discuss the contradictions that have appeared in the past ten decades of terrorism based researches6. Seemingly, researchers have used terrorism in various personal perspectives as well leading to an intense variation between different works, authors, national declarations and literature7. The definitional issues related to terrorism can be understood by the fact that various hegemonic powers have produced their own definition in order to legally support their perspectives related to terrorism on a global scale6.
Arguably, it can be discussed that if the definitions of a concept have a variation then how difficult it would be to select an adequate research methodology for the subject. If we specifically take the example of issues that had arisen in the Middle East, It is significant to note that other causes may have led to the attacks and there will be a difference in the way of them have been defined. However, the above two reasons only represent the flawed and the credible theory of causes. This is because the incorporation of the Saudis, the realization of bin Laden’s involvement with the CIA, and the other parties found to be connected to the attack either directly or indirectly have made the attacks an event that bring forth more questions and analysis than expected8.
The credible cause entails the miscalculation of a Laden’s strategy. In the past, the United States had retreated from a number of military activities when they were attacked. For example, they withdrew from Lebanon after a barrack’s attack led to the loss of two hundred and forty-one service men from the U.S army. This was in 1983. Ten years later, they withdrew once more from the Somalia after an attack led to the death of eighteen soldiers in Mogadishu. In Bin Laden’s view, the United States only needed a serious hit or attack for them to withdraw from an a region, activity or whatever in question. On one hand, Bin Laden, and others like him wanted to instill Taliban theocracies from Morocco to Indonesia. Hence, to an important section, the definition of terrorism was evidence based and provided them a wrong notion due to researches that acclaimed the above mentioned fact. Therefore, to understand how to terrorism may have a common definition for global bodies like the United Nations and the European Union however there will still be a lot of ambiguity on the subject from an academic perspective9.
3. Literature Review
Methodology and design of a research is based on the kind of output that is expected from research to provide the readers however considering the fact that there is a drastic difference between few studies getting lesser criticism then the others is due to the clarity of information dissemination and the correct choice of method in terrorism studies10. Hence, there are various aspects that provide strength to research work and there are various others that add to the weaknesses. Dolnik (2011) mentions that the researches on terrorism have been criticized and appreciated for various reasons that include ““necessary” and “crucial” to “dangerous”, “unethical” and “impossible” comments. Generalisation of qualitative research is limited in terrorism studies, because the intent of this form of inquiry is not to generalize findings to individuals, sites, or places outside of those under study. Hence Gordon (2004) discussed about various databases and literature based studies that have used generalization theory for qualitative data and it has resulted in ambiguity in the conceptualization of issues related to Terrorism that are researched.
The legal perspectives on Terrorism are also covered by various studies, Saul (2005) discuss about triangulation as a validity strategy, which has been used in various researches related to legal issues on terrorism however there is a distinct differentiation between this method of research as used in conceptual qualitative studies rather than the ones where legal perspectives are discussed as definitions and critically analyse for their effectiveness. It is important to understand that this type of strategy may not be enough to suffice to the complexity related to the subject and although it may provide a definitions and boundaries related to the legal aspects on terrorism however from a research perspective, it would be missing the analytical angle which is required for a positive contribution from the research11.
There are few researchers, analysts and those interested in the 9/11 attacks have generally shown the use of quantitative analysis in order to contribute through calculation of terrorist incidents and casualties related to the same, there are further distinctions to the distribution of data as for example there are researchers that have attributed the attacks to the Saudis. Additionally, there were other claims that provided along with the discussions on terrorist financing and various other aspects but failed to materialize the qualitative perspectives along with quantitative data due to which similar studies were not effective to create a rational theory for analysis of terrorism activity7. Similarly, from a qualitative perspective, the recent studies lacked the use of constructivism and realism as the backbone of analysis of terrorism case studies which may have been far more effective in terms of logical association with various grounds of criticism6.
Jackson et al. (2011) presented an excellent discussion on epistemological aspects of research studies based on terrorism and there was a clear expectation that academic studies must be completely free from biases like personal identity, values, perceptions and worldview hence neutralization is one of the great strengths of terrorism researches and it must be present to add to the epistemological aspects. Robson (2003) discussed about generalization as a method to present data specially coming from qualitative collection methods like interviews, surveys and case studies.
Various researchers have also proclaimed about the effectiveness of generalization, and it is usually important in the case where multiple perspectives are concentrated in order to develop a theoretical framework for a specific idea by generalizing the collected information and processing it in order to achieve homogeneous material for analysis12. Miles and Hubberman (1994) provide his view on the fact that casualty must be avoided and the researcher should define the variables in both the qualitative and quantitative studies in order to support homogeneity while maintaining adequate differences between the analyzed variables. Hence, generalization may provide strength through homogeneity and specialized approach however at the same time it is important to ensure that there is lack of casualty and the variables related to terrorism or related aspects are clearly defined during the discussion process.
Based on the underlying research epistemology the qualitative study can be classified to be positivist, interpretive and critical. This is a critical study, where mixed methodology will be used, along with an application of both Qualitative and Quantitative techniques. Yin (2009) states that case study method is relevant when research questions seek to explain some present circumstance extensive and in-depth description of phenomena. However, Yin (2009) state that every research method can be used for all three purposes (exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory). In this research it will be useful to apply theoretical propositions as a strategy to analyse the qualitative and quantitative data which will be collected. As I have employed analytical and critical framework, the contexts research, organisation, and empirical approach will guide the discussions to focus attention on certain aspects and to ignore other.
There are several strategies of inquiry in qualitative research for example; ethnography, grounded theory phenomenological research, narrative research, and case studies. Considering the fact that this study will incorporate various other researches on terrorism, it is important to use multiple strategies so that there is an abundance of techniques to critically examine the works and provide empirical evidence in support of the arguments14. Also, since a mixed methodology is being used in this work it is important to include strategies that coordinate with the quantitative aspects of the study and therefore ‘relational’ technique will also be used in order to deal with the quantitative data will be analysed as a part of the study16.
2. Main Body of The Essay
The determination of why the researcher should select a particular methodology is based on the nature of the problem that he or she wants to study15. There are two main methods of research: quantitative and qualitative. The key difference between both methodologies is that quantitative research works with few variables and many cases while qualitative research deals with few cases and many variables16. Additionally, Creswell (2009) states, that the difference between qualitative and quantitative research is framed in terms of suing words (qualitative) rather than numbers (quantitative), or using closed-ended questions (quantitative hypotheses) rather than open-ended questions (qualitative interview questions). In other words, a quantitative method is numerical and it gives information about the world in the form of numbers from counting, scaling, or both17. Quantitative is useful when the research aiming large sample is to be analyzed18. Moreover, quantitative research methodology “generally involves identifying a problem, formulation a hypothesis, collecting data to test the hypothesis, and then testing the hypothesis through the use of statistical procedures” (Solomon & Draine 2009, p. 27). Furthermore, Creswell (2009) states that quantitative research can be employed for testing objective theories by examining the relationship among variables. These variables can be measured typically on instruments, so that that numbered data can be analyzed suing statistical procedures. However, qualitative research is for exploring and understanding the meaning of describing a social or human problem from the perspective of individuals or groups14. Nevertheless, each research methodology may have its own strengths and weaknesses, depending on the type of research question, however from the social research perspective the control that the researcher has of the research objective and the focus on current or historical phenomena, makes a lot more sense12.
As stated in Creswell (2009), in many qualitative studies there are multiple forms of data for gathering information. However, “the various sources are highly complementary, and a good case study will therefore want to use as many sources as possible” (Yin 2009, p. 101). Multiple methods of data collection should be used in these studies to increase the rigour and credibility.
It is interesting to see how data from multiple incidents are gathered and processed through casual comparative research methodology and using descriptive design to present the data. Therefore, in order to provide strength to a case study based research, it is highly beneficial to follow an approach where all the categories of the data collection and representation of the study in order to conclude you will approach that can be effectively used20.
Jacson et al. (2011) is presented an excellent study on the kind of commitments that the social research work and must provide in order to be effective enough from an academy standpoint. There have been four different kinds of commitments that have been suggested by the author, namely ontological, epistemological, methodological and ethical normative commitment. It is important to understand that these commitments depend upon the knowledge management and knowledge transfer which is being targeted through a research work that gets presented considering emerging a specific objective21. The ontological commitment primarily signifies a judgmental approach towards an incident that took place in the past and may not provide a very objective data about the incident.
While, it may be difficult to select the right approach for terrorism research, the above may be helpful to understand the application of method on different types of terrorism researches. An important factor to understand over here is that, there is a huge amount of diversity associated with the researchers in the field of terrorism and therefore the selection may not be very rigid however if used along with the other observations that were a part of the study, will definitely help to effectively represent the research findings22.
The terrorism related studies can also be divided into three subsections, primarily termed as the previous incidents of terrorism, the future of terrorism and existing situations or counterterrorism activities. These three aspects of terrorism are primarily the key factors of research in various studies and therefore the future research work can further concentrate on providing a definite strategy to deal with the above mentioned three aspects of terrorism research adequately. The future studies can also include, distinctions between priority of knowledge and information dissemination within a research work and to associated with field related research and study based analysis.
Epistemological commitment is extremely important in the scenarios where ethnography exists in relation to quantifiable data that can help to present a detailed understanding of terrorism and its social construction. Methodological commitments on the other hand is primarily signifies the knowledge-based theoretical applications of pre-existing traditional social scientific explanations. Arguably, this type of a commitment that the researcher provides in his study is based on adoption and not creation of theories and hence as a model of social science this is considered to be one of the most significant and legitimate methods of social research, specially applicable for legal and terrorism related studies. Ethical-normative commitments are primarily based on ethical perspectives related to the research of social subjects. The design which is used in similar studies is mostly related to interviews and surveys and this type of study is usually used in areas related to counterterrorism where the activities of international bodies fighting terrorism are evaluated for their ethics. The primary demand of this type of study, is to produce a completely transparent view of the incidents and to allow the audience to develop their own knowledge and understanding based on the facts presented.
It would be interesting to see that various myths also circulate around, the terrorism research field and therefore most of the researchers seem to reflect a common output even after regular criticism. If we talk about the myths collectively, there are various common examples that we observe, where the content signifies terrorism as a threat, radicalization issues, controversies with countermeasures, ethical and legal aspects etc. These myths that are created, resulted in a similar type of knowledge dissemination and are usually not challenged within research works due to which the knowledge system does not distract any value from the research as the overall understanding remains at the same level.
Jacson (2011) presented detailed discussion on the agenda that should be followed for a terrorism research study to be successful. The start of such a research must include the ideological, institutional and material interests associated with the topic, and at the same time it is important to deepen the research through making open an explicit arguments based on the critical perspectives. Fragmentation of disciplines is also equally important; the combination of critical perspectives and descriptive analysis of the findings is the key strength of a terrorism research.
The detailed descriptions of research methodologies and related to set critical perspectives have been very effective to produce an ideal and discussion in order to gather, the key ingredients of a successful terrorism research. Almost, all the researchers related to terrorism that take a multidimensional approach relate itself with empirical evidence however with the criticism of judgmental approach, it is clear that in a research where terrorism related issues are discussed, it is more beneficial to depend upon emancipation and move according to a set agenda, that targets ideological, institutional and material evidences. The population based studies should use epistemological commitment approach as far as possible and must supply adequate amount of objectivity to the approach. In case if, there is a narrative based studies which provides analysis of incidents it would always be important to use ethical-normative commitment approach, by ensuring that open ended perspectives are defined, while leaving the audience is to develop their own perception through their understanding of the research representation.
There are various researches that have conducted extremely efficient analysis of data and have provided very reasonable research facts on terrorism however due to an incorrect choice of research methodology and ineffective approach to the subject their works have been highly criticized. The application of conclusions of this paper will provide an effective background for research and data representation in the studies based on terrorism. The researchers may also benefit from the critical analysis of various methodologies that have been discussed as a part of this paper, and further will be able to approve the work by implementing right approach and utilization of adequate commitments to meet their work objectives.
Terrorism based studies have faced issues related to incorrect approach and ambiguity due to which they have faced failure and criticism.
Terrorism researches get wide range of comments from ““necessary” and “crucial” to “dangerous”, “unethical” and “impossible”, which depend primarily on the method used.
All the efforts put during data collection and field research are useless of the methodology is not adequate.
The use of myths that exist in the field of terrorism research is discouraged and this can be converted into strength by questioning these myths as a part of the research and bringing in the multi dimensional aspects by providing critical analysis from anthropological and social logical contexts.
The commonly used methodologies include historical approach to events and therefore they are not very successful in providing empirical evidence to make the research useful for various academy perspectives.
Use of a proper agenda in order to approach converged data is a good start to terrorism research.
The commitment by the researcher must be chosen according to the kind of data is available for analysis and may range from ontological to ethical normative.
The critical researches in the field of terrorism must be free from any kind of biases and should be theoretical however should be based on qualitative variables that are supposed to be defined at the beginning of the research.
Mixed methodologies with epistemological design are adequate for terrorism researches however usually the choice of research methodology should be done on the basis of the questionnaire based on the type of data that is available for research and empirical approaches along with emancipation should be prioritized for better results.
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