Three major problems, and many lesser ones, exist within the field of terrorism research. First: The problem of compartmentalization. Magnus Ranstorp’s ‘Mapping Terrorism Research’ opens John Dewey quote that succinctly captures the major problem facing this research today: “One of the chief practical obstacles to the development of social inquiry is the existing division of social phenomena into a number of compartmentalised and supposedly independent non-interacting fields.” This compartmentalization has carried through to the study of terrorism, resulting in a wide range of ‘fields’ that have, so far, little integration.
One of the more serious separations of research concerns motivation. There is a great divide between the motivations for scholarly research and non-academic research. Scholarly research seeks factual explanations that are devoid of bias. Governments, policy makers, law enforcement agencies, and the media each have their own justifications for distorting research methods and findings. Official bodies tend to approach terrorism in order to effect immediate mitigations, increase popularity and acceptance of policy, and garner public support for decisions.
This official blindness has led to biased analyses including the rejection (without scientific reason) of consideration of political motivations of terrorists. The media, having shown that sensationalism increases readership and profits, is often guilty of distortion. All these are contradictory to the aims of academic research, and hinder understanding.
Ranstorp M. (2006). Mapping Terrorism Research. State of the Art, Gaps
and Future Direction. Sweden, Routledge.