For years the dominant narrative has been that there is a dearth of primary sources in terrorism studies. This is now changing. The talk about the scarcity of data is gradually being replaced by discussions of a “data revolution” and a “golden age” of terrorism research. We are now publishing more research based on the analysis of primary source data than ever before. Included in this has been some ground-breaking interview research with recent and former terrorists—research that could define how we think about terrorist involvement for years to come. With this increased access to data, if our research is to have any analytical value and concurrently respected both within and outside of academia, we need to actively consider how we analyze it.
Analytical considerations must be guided by the research questions we are trying to answer. In order to be most effective, research questions and analytical considerations need to be thought through before data collection even begins and thus guide the data collection process. After all, if terrorism studies is to continue to advance as a field, then we need to demonstrate that when we do have access to these data that we are analyzing them appropriately. In this needs to be an appreciation for what our data can and cannot tell us. This appreciation for the limits of the data and the separate analytical techniques will only serve to strengthen the research. As the opening quote from Paul Gill intimates, we are now moving away from those continuous refrains of “there is no data” and we must now have more sophisticated discussions about how to make best use of the data when we do have access. This applies to both qualitative and quantitative data analysis.