Researcher Resources That No One Told Me About
Resources for (very) early-career researchers, project assistants, students, and interns in security, extremism, and counter-terrorism
Sometimes I think everyone knows these resources exist and they’re super basic. But then I remember that some of my ostensibly internet-literate friends don’t even know how to like, find free epsiodes of 90 Day Fiancé online so maybe these are useful to someone!
This isn’t a reading list of best articles or books, I’m assuming we all know that JSTOR, etc. exist, and I’m not including anything that isn’t free (a few things you might need to create an account for).
Number one tip for research that no one told me as a student:
You can straight-up just ASK academics for copies of their pay-walled papers. They don’t mind, they don’t lose money from it, and its a nice way to start a conversation with someone whose research you think is cool. And for that time they saved you scouring ResearchGate and weird PDF websites, just spend ten seconds telling them if you thought it was good or hype them up in a tweet. And if this helped you, you can hype me up too @dervlamcneice.
Bellingcat’s Online Investigation Toolkit
Bellingcat is a collective of OSINT researchers and investigators. Their Toolkit is a godsend of a Google Doc with all the basic OSINT tools you could need for research/personal social media stalking/thats your business ranging from username checkers to geolocators to YouTube metadata grabbers.
The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine
An internet archive that’s archiving the internet itself. Find old deleted websites.
First Draft News’ Toolkit
First Draft News provides practical and ethical guidance in how to find, verify, and publish content sourced from the social web. They have amazing free courses, webinars, and resources. Their geolocation challenges are fun (and I’m really good at them btw). The Toolkit is a set of mobile-friendly verification and monitoring tools.
First Draft News’ Visual Verification Guide
A photo and video guide for working with eyewitness media (e.g. those violent videos that people just love to retweet in the aftermath of an attack to show how ‘in the loop’ they are. Which is tacky btw.)
First Draft News’ TikTok Monitoring Guide and OSINT Cheat Sheet
The basics including FYP, trends, and ‘sound squatting’. The guide is article-style, the cheat sheet is a Google Doc. I don’t need this because I’m really young and cool so I know lots about TikTok but some of you guys might.
First Draft News’ Guide to Approaching Social Sources
This guide establishes standards and best practices for contacting eyewitnesses and using eyewitness media (e.g. someone is tweeting photos they’re taking during an event).
Standing for ‘Social Media Analysis Toolkit’ is a selection of open source tools for downloadable (and nicely graphed and tabled) analysis.
The OSINT Curious Project Resource List
Another Google Doc with links to all of OSINT Curious’ tips and instructive videos for researchers.
Tactical Tech’s The Kit
Tactical Tech is a Berlin-based NGO that seeks to mitigate technology’s negative impact on society. Its like, very Berlin. Loads of resources but they can be a little bit hard to find within long-winded pages and reports (sorry TT). There’s lots to explore but The Kit is a broad toolkit to “promote investigation as one of the most important forms of engagement”. It has information and instructive case studies on things like extracting info from social media, using maps, visual clues, and investigating political ads on Facebook. Its also in French and Spanish! ¡Olé!
VOX-Pol Researcher Resources
VoxPol is an academic research network with one of the most accessible academic websites around. Their Researcher Resources has ethical guidelines and privacy tips, as well as jobs, tools, and a library. God bless.
OSINT Combine Free Tools
Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Listservs
IRE is a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting. A lot on IRE’s website is members only but the Listservs are open to non-members as well to to exchange ideas, information, and techniques. There’s ones for investigations, data, mapping, and more.
Digital Methods Initiative ToolDatabase
DMI is a European Internet research studies group. Besides the tools they have loads of really cool papers from their members. The ToolDatabase has some good tools I haven’t seen elsewhere, e.g. for Wikipedia and Amazon Books.
Duke Lab Global Fact-Checking Sites
Literally a map and list of global fact-checking sites. If you’re researching regions you don’t know well, you may not be sure if the media you’re reading is reliable so check it here.
The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma’s guide for Handling Traumatic Imagery: Developing a Standard Operating Procedure
Thinktanks and universities sleep on journalism resources. They also sleep on warning students and young people about seeing and reading about really dark things during their degrees/internships/jobs. Although, it is—at least—being talked about a little bit more now.
The Dart Center is part of Columbia’s journalism school. They have a lot of useful tips on working with traumatic imagery, including this SOP.
First Draft News’ Journalism and Vicarious Trauma: A Guide for Journalists, Editors and News Organisations
Not just for journalists, but for anyone working with traumatic content online including in a university setting. Tips for protecting yourself and your team.
Deborah Lupton’s Guide to Doing Fieldwork in a Pandemic
Amazing resources for digital social research. Everything from interviews to asynchronous focus groups to Facebook groups and video calling. Useful way beyond the pandemic. LOVE!
Stanford’s Doing Ethnography Remotely
A series of interviews and guides from researchers who all conducted ethnographic research during the pandemic.
Field Research: A Graduate Students Guide
A practical guide for field research from five junior scholars.
Symbols and Terminology
The Anti-Defamation League’s Hate on Display™ Hate Symbols Database
The ADL is a US-based Jewish organisation focused on fighting bigotry, especially anti-semitism. Their database of racist and hate-group symbols include photo and short descriptions. Its a relatively small database so its quick and easy to familiarise yourself with all of them, which is good practice and makes you seem really smart.
Moonshot Incel’s: A Guide to Symbols and Terminology
Moonshot uses technology and data to disrupt and end violent extremism. I don’t know if it prefers to be called a thinktank or a startup or…something else so lets just call it a cool organisation. Their guide is a general primer on incels with a really useful glossary.
The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism’s Small Arms and Light Weapons Glossary and Bibliography
ICCT is a Dutch ‘think and do tank’. A glossary of terms from ICCT’s SALW project which analyses the threat that proliferation, illicit trafficking, and diversion of small arms and light weapons pose to global security (with CRAAFT).
Southern Poverty Law Center’s Extremist Files
SPLC is a US legal advocacy organisation focused on civil rights and extremist groups. Their extremist files include profiles on prominent extremists and organisations. You can search by individual (e.g. James Mason), by group (e.g. The Proud Boys), or by ideology (e.g. Male Supremacy).
Southern Poverty Law Center’s Terror from the Right
Terror from the Right is an archive of major terrorist plots and other radical right attacks in the US since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Map”
The Hate Map is an interactive and filterable map tracking 100s of hate groups across the US and by state.
Moonshot’s Domestic Violent Extremist Mobilization in the United States
A series of State-level infographics using aggregated metadata collected on Google Search from September 2020 until March 2021 related to Domestic Violent Extremist mobilizations to targeted violence, political violence, conspiracy theories, and armed groups.
Everytown’s Mass Shooting Map
Jihadology is a website and archive by The Washington Institute’s jihadism expert, Dr. Aaron Y. Zelin, which includes both primary source material, and original analysis.
To secure the site and ensure its contents are used purely for legitimate research, much of it is password protected, in line with Tech Against Terrorism’s recommendations. You can sign up with an institutional email (e.g. your organisation or university) or can manually request access if you’re working independently.
Jihadology also chooses (always great) Articles of the Week which Aaron tweets out!
BRaVE’s Map and Database on Counter-extremism Projects, Policies and Institutions
Building Resilience against Violent Extremism and Polarisation is an EU Horizon 2020 research consortium and programme aiming to create a framework to understand polarisation and radicalization in Europe. Their map and database record counter-extremism projects, policies and institutions active between 2014 and 2019, as well as relevant studies published since 2000.
A portal by the University of Arizona which offers access to downloadable forums from the Artificial Intelligence Lab’s Dark Web and Geo Web collections. The website is hella old though.
The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project Database
ACLED is a data and mapping project so lots of data and maps. And yes, I like to choose Ireland for screenshot examples when I can. Thats my perogative. And I’m proud of us for only having 10 riots and 1 battle.
University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats Database on Suicide Attacks
The Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) is a non-partisan research center at the University of Chicago. The Database has over 40 years of statistics, coded for over 60 variables. They also have a section on political violence, including the Capitol riots.
Crisis Group’s CrisisWatch Global Conflict Tracker
ICG is a big important conflict-focused think tank known for being more “in the field” or “on the ground” than other think tankers. The Conflict Tracker gives a global overview, country updates, and risk alerts.
Bangladesh Peace Observatory HeatMap
Hosted by the Centre for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka, The BPO’s HeatMap is overview of all violent incidents in Bangaldesh by motive, actor, and human impact. Its not the most high tech, perfect map.
HOWEVER I think about it a lot because it shows how differently incidents are categorised in different regions. Have a look at the actor section, for example. Some of the categories (if you’re from the West, at least), seem borderline comical e.g. ‘goon/miscreant’, ‘robber/pirate’, ‘businessman’, ‘newborn/child’. Obviously they’re not actually comical (and anyone whose had the misfortune of sharing an office with me knows, I’m famously immature and can’t shut up anyway) but it sends you down a path of learning what a goon/miscreant MEANS in Bangladesh which gives you a better understanding of reporting of violent incidents in Bangladesh. Obviously, a lot of these incidents counterterrorism researchers are studying are not happening in the West so we shouldn't be forcing Western language on them (especially when there is literally ENGLISH terms used by researchers in these countries already). I’m rambling but who cares this is my Medium post.
And just to continue rambling slightly. Most of the resources in the post are from the West—that’s just because I’m from there, went to college there, worked there, speak English (ar an drochuair!), and mostly researched right wing stuff in the US. BUT, this is just one list and its not an excuse for you to not seek out resources directly from other regions because they do exist and they’re BETTER.
ICCT’s Dataset of Jihadi Terrorist Attacks in the West
Reinier Bergema and Olivia Kearney’s 2020 report on the democratisation of the terror threat in the West ends with one of the best databases on attacks in the West with 116 events from 2004 to 2019. I know its one of the best ’cause (full disclosure) I was Editor at ICCT when we published this and its legit. Also they both LOVE data and numbers—which I cannot relate to at all and I am their friend in spite of—which makes for good quantitative research.
Kivu Security Tracker
The Kivu Security Tracker (KST) is a joint project of the Congo Research Group, based at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, and Human Rights Watch which maps violence by state security forces and armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
United Nations Peacemaker Peace Agreements Database
No shade but a surprisingly good, clean, useful website for the UN.
Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict Dataset
The Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict (SVAC) dataset measures reports of state-based conflict-related sexual violence committed by armed actorsduring from 1989–2019, based on U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch reports. It includes info on prevalence, perpetrators, and forms.
The Correlates of War Project Data Sets
COW seeks to facilitate the collection, dissemination, and use of accurate and reliable quantitative data in international relations. Includes data on interstate conflicts, material capabilities, religion, alliances, colonialism, defence agreements, territorial changes and more. A classic.
The Uppsala Conflict Data Program Dataset Download Center
UCDP is the world’s main provider of data on organised violence and the oldest ongoing data collection project for civil war. There is a homepage for visualising and downloading maps—they call it the Conflict Encyclopedia—and a download centre with ready-made datasets.
START Data and Tools
START (or The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, which no one calls it and I had to Google because I realised I had no idea what START stood for) is a DHS research centre based at the University of Maryland. Its obviously most well known resource-wise for the famous GTD but it also has a different selection of data and tools (in a slightly less snazzy part of the website) on things like nuclear facilities, social vulnerability, terrorism preparedness, and public warning systems.
START Global Terrorism Database
The famous GTD. More than 200,000 attacks since 1970. It used to be totally open and then it changed slightly in 2019. Still free for students and individual researchers but you do need to sign up to get full access.
Institute for Economics and Peace Global Terrorism Index and Global Peace Index
IEP is an Aussie thinktank that publishes the GTI (terrorism impact measurement) and GPI (relative peacefulness measurement) every year—plus a few other reports including country-specific UK and US indices. Read their methodology and decide on that for yourself but, at the most basic level, the reports are always at least concise, easy to read, and well-designed. Which is surprisingly rare. Shade. Although they sometimes publish under Vision of Humanity which is confusing and makes things hard to find. You win some you lose some.
Pew Research Datasets
Pew calls itself a “fact tank” (someone stop these people—there’s never going to be a cool play on ‘think tank’. Lost cause). So many polls. Lots of fun. I like to read the word sections but there are downloadable numbers for you nerds too.
Peace Research Institute Oslo Data on Armed Conflict
The PRIO is a conflict research institution. They have replication data from their publications as well as other sets on arms, governance, and geographical conflict-risk factors
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Databases
SIPRI is a think tank focused on armaments, arms control, and disarmament as well as general conflict. Datasets include peace ops, arms transfers, arms embargoes, arms exports, and military expenditure.
The Watson Institute’s Costs of War Project
The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs is a research centre focused on development, security, and governance, and based at Brown University. The Costs of War Project is comprised of 50 scholars from various disciplines which work to account for and illustrate the cost of post-9/11 wars — both for the countries in which they are fought and for the US veterans who participate in them.
C-REX’s Right-wing Terrorism and Violence in Western Europe Dataset
C-REX (or the Center for Research on Extremism) is a joint collaboration with 5 of the Norway’s leading institutions on extremism, and is based at the University of Oslo. It focuses on right-wing extremism, hate crimes, and political violence. The RTV Dataset includes the most severe types events since 1990 whose target selection was based on right-wing beliefs.
ETH Zurich Center for Security Studies Datasets
CSS at ETH Zürich is a Swiss security policy and research center. Their section of datasets aren’t their OWN datasets but other sites and organisations that they use to get statistics and data from. You might have these already but still handy.
If you have any suggested resources—including your own!—reply below or slide into my DMs are I’ll add it in.
Bro if someone can tell me how to post my Twitter as a link without it looking as ugly as this, lmk, because what am I doing wrong!