Adam McCauley



Formulating Research Questions & Designing Research Projects in International Relations

with Andrea Ruggeri (Oxford)

Forthcoming chapter in The SAGE Handbook of Research Methods in Political Science and International Relations”, Luigi Curini and Rob Franzese (eds.).


2016 - PRESENT

Locations of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram in Nigeria

Locations of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram in Nigeria

My current research rests on a set of interrelated questions: How do insurgent groups adapt? Why are some able to adapt better than others? Under what conditions should groups be more capable of adaptation? What does the variation between groups tell us about their wider life-cycles and patterns of survival? While both qualitative and quantitative approaches have generated considerable insights into the conditions under which insurgencies emerge, endure, splinter, and eventually resolve, there are few targeted investigations into how insurgent groups adapt. Further, there is a dearth of focused study on the variation in survival rates for insurgent groups, with models failing to explain how certain insurgencies endure for generations while others disappear in months—particularly given the heterogeneity of insurgent group in each of these categories.

My current work builds an original conceptual and theoretical framework for assessing insurgent adaptability.


2015 - PRESENT

Parties to conflict.png

Are civilians passive observers in domestic conflict? Do locally-organized, armed civilians affect patterns of violence in conflict? What impact does the structure of these local groups have on the behaviours of insurgent and incumbent forces in conflict?  This project argues that the presence or emergence of Civilian Defense Forces (CDFs) have consequences for the study of conflict in the international system, as these groups influence dynamics of violence in intrastate conflicts and patterns of war-time governance.

This project adopts a nested analysis methodology, corrects our definition of CDFs, constructs a theoretical framework that gives agency to civilians’ organization in domestic conflict, provides quantitative findings to highlight general patterns and explores the causal mechanisms that explain CDF impact on dynamics of conflict qualitatively.

My qualitative work explores four case studies: the Philippines, Indonesia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Sudan. Drawing on the substantial literature of civil war and comparative governance studies, the project seeks to explain how local, self-organized armed groups can influence the practices of violence during intra-state conflict.



Photo by monsitj/iStock / Getty Images

The Adaptability, Ideology, and Rebellion (AIR) Dataset on Armed Groups and Insurgents aims to quantitatively measure group level variables on ideological strength, leadership, and organizational institutions. The data gathering will use the Non-State Actor Data (NSA) (Cunningham et al 2009) as the master data structure and will enable the new data to be used and merged with a vast collection of existing data sources, using the NAG as the unit of analysis. Starting in 2018, the AIR project will update missing NSA group characteristics for armed groups world-wide since 1945, creating a new extended and comprehensive dataset featuring vital non-material factors.


2018 - PRESENT

The study of international relations was borne in war. The inaugural research chair in the subject—the Woodrow Wilson Chair in International Politics, at Aberystwyth—was occupied by Alfred Eckhard Zimmern in 1919, as body counts were being tallied after the "Great War." Zimmern would be intimately involved in the construction of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, whose covenant enshrined that all high-consenting parties, “In order to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security” agree “by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war.” Christened in this manner, and empowered to reduce the risk of conflict, IR has considerably expanded its perspectives of interest, while keeping central this responsibility to understand the interactions of nation-states in an effort to minimise conflict.

Words @ War, follows in this tradition while critically examining an understudied and overlooked aspect of international relations theory: the role of culture and, specifically, literature in shaping the patterns of conflict. Words @ War studies how fictional accounts of previous and contemporary wars have acculturated the American political landscape with specific images, themes, and schemas which, in turn, have framed how political actors/decision-makers/agents have discussed conflict.