Beacham Group; www.trackingterrorism.org/preview-trac
CONTENT Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) combines original analytical articles, copies of related news stories from a wide variety of sources, and links to related resources and tools to create a compelling collection of information.
Original analytical articles can be separated into five main categories: ideology, targets, tactics, vulnerable regions, and groups. The articles are heavily cross-referenced.
Ideology pieces focus on the ideas and philosophies behind various terrorist groups, including those focused on left- and right-wing terrorism, nationalist ideology, environmental terrorism, narcoterrorism, and many other types. These summary entries provide links to articles discussing related groups. Additional articles classify targets‚ electrical grids, NGOs, infrastructure, and cyberterrorism, for example‚ and provide links to associated organizations, tactics used to attack these targets, and regions most susceptible to such plans.
The tactics section includes information on common terrorist strategies, e.g., bombings and assassinations, but it also offers discussions of propaganda, recruitment, and interrogation. Articles on vulnerable regions contain country profiles on nearly all nations recognized by the UN, as well as distinct entities such as the Palestinian Authority. Countries most affected by terrorism have profiles summarizing threats related to that place, plus links to associated
Profiles of terrorist groups make up the largest section of the database. Hundreds of entities are listed, including some that are no longer active, such as the African National Congress. Group profiles may include a brief summary of origins and links to TRAC articles about its ideology, tactics, and targets. Leaders are sometimes named but are not profiled, and well-known incidents are listed. Entries link to external sources such as the National Counterterrorism Center.
An important feature, the group profiles identify associated organizations (e.g., allies, suspected allies, splinter groups, etc.) and explain the nature of their association. The group profiles also provide links to items from the Chatter Control section of the website, including news articles and primary sources such as terrorist videos and messages.
Written for a general audience, the articles do not typically include in-text citations or footnotes, but they close with a list of books, articles, websites, and other resources. Pieces that appear in the five main categories are written by scholars who have brief biographies on the site. Contributions from others are solicited via a Become a Contributor or Submit Additions link on each page. Uninvited submissions appear to be reviewed and may then be posted in the database’s Publishing Center.
In TRAC’s Chatter Control section, contributors may submit information from other related online sources. This provides some incredibly useful resources from, for example, NPR, the Indian Deccan Herald newspaper, and Al Jazeera’s website. It is problematic that articles are copied in their entirety from the original sources, without crediting authors or even opening with a direct link to the original, though each Chatter Control page provides the URL of the parent site at the top of the page and a link to the original source at the bottom. These pages will be of concern to the original content creators and will complicate citing these items in research papers.
USABILITY There is no advanced search, and basic search suffers from limitations. Because the search function returns exact matches, the system doesn’t deal well with spelling variations (a concern owing to the international content). On several occasions, I had to Google the spelling of a group name. A more robust search would be useful.
On the other hand, the database provides powerful filters at the top of each primary content page. For example, the main page for terrorist groups may be filtered by region, status (active, inactive), and importance (to watch, incomplete data). When browsing vulnerable regions, users can filter by associated groups, which allows for a quick answer to the question, In which countries does this terrorist group operate? Sections for tactics, targets, and ideology can be filtered by author and associated groups.
Users will find a table of contents, and articles are laid out clearly on screen, with longer entries separated into several pages. Articles can be easily printed via prominent links on each page. A Cite This Page feature is provided, but the database is always cited as the author, ignoring the actual writer and making things more confusing for users. Links to articles are clear and persistent, but users must be logged in to see the content.
External links are clearly indicated, and articles within the database are well connected, and this makes it easy to get sidetracked on your research quest.
PRICING TRAC costs from $1000 to $10,000 annually, based on the size of the institution and the population served.
VERDICT This attractive, high-quality resource offers a comprehensive treatment of terrorism-related information. For institutions that offer programs focusing on international relations, political science, or modern history, it will be a welcome addition to existing resources. Since articles are written for a general audience, public libraries may also find it worthwhile.