Research Note: Single Actor Terrorism: Scope, Characteristics and Explanations

Petter Nesser


This Research Note does three things. First, it takes a critical look at definitions, conceptualizations and empirical observations within the field of individual terrorism. Second, it presents and problematizes empirical surveys of so-called “lone wolf terrorists” and individual jihadist terrorists in Europe. Third, it discusses alternative theoretical arguments regarding the scope, characteristics and possible increase of single actor terrorism. Existing research indicates that single actor terrorism is likely to remain a relatively marginal phenomenon, but that attacks may become more sophisticated and deadly due to contagion and tactical diffusion via the Internet, mass media and social networks. Regardless, the analysis presented in the following reveals an acute need for clearer operationalizations and better data in the study of individualized terrorism. 

Full Text: PDF HTML

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions