Mapping Contemporary Terrorism Courses at Top-Ranked National Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges in the United States

Ivan Sascha Sheehan


Most of the scholarly work on Terrorism Studies focuses on terrorism research (knowledge production). By contrast, relatively little attention has been paid to teaching about terrorism (knowledge dissemination) at universities. This paper addresses this gap by providing a systematic analysis of contemporary terrorism courses at 106 top-ranked U.S. based universities and colleges. The study uses 1) key word searches of course catalogues for the academic year 2010-2011 to identify terrorism courses; 2) descriptive statistics to document the field and disciplinary distributions of these courses 2) stepwise regression to assess the relative contributions of institutional characteristics to the frequency of these courses; 3) text analysis to extract dominant topics and a qualitative review of a sample of syllabi. The results indicate that a) most of the these academic institutions offer terrorism courses but courses only secondarily on terrorism outnumber those explicitly or primarily on terrorism by 3:1; b) the institutional presence of a highly cited terrorism scholar, a security studies program and terrorism research center are significantly associated with more terrorism courses c) courses explicitly on terrorism tend to emphasize non-state terrorism and prescriptively focus on counterterrorism while those only secondarily on terrorism have a broader focus. The results have implications for the development of Terrorism Studies as an academic discipline. 

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

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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