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Research Methodology: The Prevention Project

Michael Jones and Emily Winterbotham
Occasional Papers, 11 May 2020
Terrorism and Conflict, The Prevention Project, Tackling Extremism, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding
This paper outlines the research methodology used in the Prevention Project.

In January 2018, the Norwegian government commissioned RUSI to lead the Prevention Project, which ran for over two years. The project aims to improve the knowledge base for preventing and countering violent extremist programming. Facing stark conceptual and methodological challenges, preventive interventions have generally relied on assumption-based logics with little empirical grounding, exposing the field to a range of theoretical, practical and ethical problems.

By attempting to answer the research question ‘what can work and what has not worked in preventing/countering violent extremism (P/CVE)?’, the Prevention Project addresses some of these shortfalls, synthesising academic papers, evaluations, policy briefs and internal documents to understand what evidence, if any, exists for the ‘successful’ or effective application of such activities. This process condensed key findings from the literature and interrogated the basis of these findings to critically assess the substance and limitations of the source material with the aim of understanding the effectiveness (or not) of the intervention approaches described in the literature.

The approach to this review involved: 1) identification of search terms and criteria for inclusion and exclusion; 2) identification of potential sources; 3) collection of material related to P/CVE interventions using key search terms; 4) identification of additional material through snowballing; 5) removal of any material that was not relevant to this study and grouping of collected material into the relevant ‘thematic’ categories; 6) scoring of these studies according to their quality and assigning a related grading (high, medium or low quality); and 7) analysis of the documents to diagnose common assumptions or theories of change underpinning each thematic intervention, the validity of these assumptions and the effectiveness (or not) of the intervention described in the document.

BANNER IMAGE: Courtesy of yurolaitsalbert / Adobe Stock.

Michael Jones
Research Fellow

Michael is a Research Fellow in the Terrorism and Conflict team examining political violence, conflict economies and the convergence of... read more

Emily Winterbotham
Director, Terrorism and Conflict

Emily is Director of the Terrorism and Conflict group and Senior Research Fellow at RUSI focusing on extremism and... read more

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