Skip to main content

Terrorism

Getting Started

Use the tabs at left to locate the specific types of resources you need including reference encyclopedias and dictionaries, books, journals and research databases, and web resources.

Thomas Nelson Librarians are ready to help you with your research needs! Contact the Research Help Desk at tnccreference@gmail.com or call 757-825-2877 for assistance.

What is Terrorism?

Surprisingly, there is no precise definition of terrorism. Walter Laqueur, an expert in the field, has counted over one hundred definitions of the term. Definitions depend on one's point of view and are inherently controversial. The only general characteristic that seems to be agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence. But when is the use of violence legitimate? Even the United States government does not have one, all embracing definition.

The Department of Defence, the FBI and the State Department all have different definitions of the term. This is why Walter Laqueur has written" even if there were an objective, value-free definition of terrorism, covering all its important aspects and features, it would still be rejected by some for ideological reasons." Title 22 of the United States Code ( 22 USC 2656) defines terrorism as premediated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.

Michael Kronenwetter, in his book "Terrorism:A Guide to Events and Documents" (2004) writes that "the difficulty of defining terrorism is largely self-imposed. It is manufactured out of the need to justify certain violent actions, while condemning others." He writes that terrorist acts have three elements: "malicious actions or threats directed against people who are regarded as innocent, or who are protected by the laws and conventions of modern warfare and designed ( at least partly) to frighten, intimidate, or otherwise influence populations or governments."

Develop a research plan

Develop your research topic.

What are the key concepts of your topic?  Can you broaden or narrow your focus? Consider focusing on one or more of the following:

  • time period
  • place
  • specific event   
  • specific people

Does your topic overlap other subject areas such as anthropology, geography or political science?

Think of 2- 3 questions that you will need to explore.

  • Think about the history of your topic, and its categories.
  • Who are the key people? What did they do? Why did it happen?

Under each question, think about the following aspects:

  • What do you already know about your topic or issue?
  • What do you need to learn to better understand your topic or issue?
  • What kind of information resource might provide the answer to these questions?

    Consider your audience.

    • Who will read your paper?
    • Why will it be of interest to them?
    • What will be new to them?