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Why do people join terrorist groups? Are these people different from the rest of us in some important, identifiable way? If so, can we identify the roots of these differences and explain them using a psychological theory? Your investigation of this topic is not meant to be expansive or all- inclusive. Finding and investigating a part of the puzzle can still be a valuable contribution to our understanding. You should choose one or more individual cases and present your investigation of the psychological forces that motivated these specific persons to join a terrorist group and/or commit terrorist acts. Alternatively, you may wish to focus on a particular terrorist group and the members attracted to it. Please take seriously the need to scale this topic to a narrow investigation trying to explain all of the sources of the problem will overwhelm your resources and make the resulting paper much too shallow as it tries to explain everything. There is no explanation for all terrorism. Choose a small, well-delineated portion of the problem and a specific psychological theory that you believe helps us understand it.

Begin by reading and watching some of the background resources provided below to familiarize yourself with the scope of the problem and some explanations that have been offered by others. Then, begin the process of reducing your topic to a manageable size. Within this narrowed scope of your investigation, identify a particular theory that you think may help explain the case(s) under study. As you investigate whether or not the theory identified is an adequate explanation for the problem, present your logical conclusions with their associated evidence.

For example, if you assert that social or group forces are more powerful as explanations, you may hypothesize that Rational Choice Theory, Mertons strain theory, or some other theory can provide a useful framework for understanding terrorist group membership and acts. Conversely, you may determine the focus is better placed on individual forces, you may explain it using psychological concepts like frustration-aggression, psychopathy, narcissistic Injury, schizophrenia, or other mental illness. Do not limit your scope to these examples. They are just that; examples. You may certainly find other plausible explanations.

In this section of the paper, you will explain the problem identified and identify a psychological or sociological theory that purports to explain some aspect of the problem. This section should contain reference citations as needed to authors whose theories or statements of the problem have informed your understanding. You should state the question clearly, explain the theory you think helps explain the answer, and define the terms as they will be used in your paper. (For example, what is a terrorist group?)

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