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IS 0400: Terrorism Analysis:
Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methodologies and Tools

Course Description
Topic Highlights
Course Objectives
Who Should Attend

Course Description

This course introduces participants to a variety of quantitative and qualitative methodologies for the study of terrorism. This two-day course provides participants with an in-depth understanding of single and multi-methodological tools and techniques. Ultimately, participants learn how to create and utilize analytical tools applicable to the current and emerging needs of professionals and academics with responsibilities for preventing, preparing for, responding to, or forecasting terrorism.


  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs) will be awarded by George Mason University
  • Syllabus and reading materials
  • Lunch and breaks on all days
  • Certificate of attendance

Topic Highlights

This course introduces participants to key data sources and methodologies for the study, response, and prediction of terrorist behaviors of interest.


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Each seminar is recommended for: Please call for information about CEUs and contact hours.
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Contact Info.
Science and Technology Campus
  • Online contact form
  • Address:
      George Mason University
    Office of Continuing Professional Education
      10900 University Blvd.
      Manassas, VA 20110
  • Telephone: 703-993-8335
  • Fax: 703-993-8336
    1. Multi-Methodological Methods

      1. Strategic Forecast and Warning

        “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it is about the future.” – Nils Bohr

        A feature that is often highlighted in regards to new waves of terrorism is the importance of rapidly advancing and accessible technologies; the concern of terrorists acquiring and using these technologies to more effectively promote their agenda is a grave national and international security issue. What is often ignored or underappreciated is the fact that newer technologies and analytic tools are also available to not only try to explain current security threats, but to possibly forecast threats that may arise in the future. How do these models of strategic foresight and warning work? How do these models accommodate for the complexities of the real world? How do technologies such as crowd-sourcing horizon scanning work to help illuminate future threats? What are the current limitations to these technologies, and how might practitioners seek to address these issues? How can these models be applied to deal with terrorism issues?

    2. Quantitative Research and Methods

      1. Introduction to Terrorism Databases

        Participants learn the strengths and weaknesses of the major terrorism databases that, collectively, cover over forty years of terrorist activity. Working with data from 1970 forward, participants will learn to collect, access, and fruitfully utilize hundreds of variables drawn from over 110,000 incidents of terrorism. This includes dozens of variables on more than 1200 perpetrators active at some point from 1970 -2013. In most incidents, each event’s many variables have specific values attributed, allowing for analysis across data sets and also in single high n data sets. The specificity of the variables allows for a highly detailed account of attacks based on variables such as weapon type, attack type, targets, perpetrators, and many other considerations; the specificity and comprehensive nature of these databases is what makes them an invaluable tool in studying terrorism.

        Databases and large n data sets include:
        • The Global Terrorism Database (GTD)
        • The Radiological and Nuclear Non-State Adversary Database (RANSADD)
        • Ricin and other BW Toxins: the U.S. Right-Wing Data Set (FAS)
        • South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP)
        • Extremist Symbols, Logos and Tattoos: Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
        • Terrorist Profiles: National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)
        • Other data sets specifically on perpetrators
        • Limited access databases
        • Smaller, more idiosyncratic data sets

      2. Identifying the Adversary: Past, Extant, and Emerging Terrorist Behaviors

      3. Participants will learn how to use these databases to determine which factors influence and determine terrorist behavior, as well as how to structure and assess the interplay between a number of relevant and interesting factors. For example:
        • How does the group’s target criterion influence the ultimate type of attack and weapon selection?
        • What influence does a group’s ideology have on its operational goals and the various attack modalities utilized?
        • What are the common attributes of groups that engage in mass-casualty attacks?
        • What shared factors exist among groups with behaviors of concerns regarding unconventional weapons (chemical, biological, and radiological, and nuclear (CBRN)?

    3. Qualitative Research Methods

      1. Models and Frameworks: The Relationship Between Terrorist Group Factors and Attack Modalities
      2. This module uses qualitative research methods to explore the relationships between a terrorist group’s internal composition, external considerations, decision-making factors, operational objectives, and their choice of weapons and targets. Through historical informed modeling, this module provides participants with the ability to conceptualize what groups are predisposed to certain types of attacks, as well as the reasoning behind such assessments.

      3. Creating Groups and Their Likely Attacks
      4. Participants will learn and apply analytic tools to examine how an extant or hypothetical group’s known factors influence the group’s likely behaviors of interest. Each of the approximately 20 attack modalities is calibrated through this application of group factor outcomes allowing participants to “Red Team” a variety of attack scenarios in a well-informed, cogent manner: one that restricts artificiality and provokes fidelity of imagination and insights. Participants can explore the influence of salient group factors, learning to utilize and create profiles of terrorist groups– for example, ideological constraints and freedoms, external group factors, decision-making factors, operational goals and attack modalities. This last element is broken down into nearly 20 attack modality sub-modalities, including target selection, weapon or agent preferences, final weapons selection, acquisition and weaponization of weapons material pre-attack preparations, ingress and egress, use of weapon, and escape plan.

    Course Objectives

    1. Identify best use practices for a variety of open-source terrorism data sets.
    2. Appreciate the advantages, drawbacks, and potentialities offered by the use of terrorism variables. Learning to identify, test for applicability, and comparatively assess the relative importance of specific variables for explaining, understanding, and forecasting terrorist behavior.
    3. Structure cross-variable interrelations– and the weighing of relative importance– in the identification of terrorist behaviors of particular interest.
    4. Understand how various methodologies interact to synergistically inform and empower various tools useful in preventing, assessing, responding to, and predicting terrorist behaviors of interest. Using this knowledge to structure entirely new approaches in the creation of tools for assessing and predicting terrorist behaviors.

    Who Should Attend

    Those responsible for preventing, preparing for, responding to, or predicting terrorism including policy makers; security analysts from government, private sector, and non-government organizations; law enforcement officers; homeland security practitioners; media professionals; and academics.





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