ICOW Quarterly Review Methodology

This page will describe the basic methodology used in creating the Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) Project's quarterly and annual reviews.

Identifying Claims

All ICOW contentious issue data sets share similar definitions, with the goal of ensuring that the states in question are clearly disagreeing over the issue. Broadly speaking, it must be the official policy of the challenger state to demand a change over the issue, and the target state must disagree with this demand (at least initially). There are three key elements in this definition:

More detail on the project is available on the ICOW Project home page as well as in Hensel and Mitchell's 2017 Conflict Management and Peace Science paper "From Territorial Claims to Identity Claims: The Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) Project." [you may prefer the journal's official page for this article if your library has access]

News Searches

These quarterly reviews are compiled from daily news searches while the quarter is underway. This includes more than 30 RSS news feeds representing a variety of different perspectives and geographic emphases such as Al Jazeera, All Africa (which includes Africa-related stories from hundreds of sources), the Arab Weekly, Baltic News Network, BBC, Deutsche Welle, the East African, Journal du Cameroun (which includes stories from the Agence France-Presse and Agence de Presse Africaine news agencies), Mainichi (which includes stories from the Associated Press and Kyodo news agencies), New York Times, TASS, and Times of Central Asia. The list of RSS feeds changes periodically, as previously useful news sources end their RSS service (as happened with Xinhua) or as new sources are discovered that appear to be useful; the goal is to identify sources that cover global or regional news rather than focusing on individual states. Beyond these specific news feeds, we also run saved Google News searches each day for nearly 300 permutations of search terms such as "border clash," "boundary accord," "territorial claim," "undemarcated border," "maritime delimitation," "fishing talks," "river treaty," "dam dispute," and many others; these searches should identify any story with any of these search terms that is published in any of the more than 4500 English language sources that are searched by Google News.

Each news story that comes up from these searches is read for indications of a potential or ongoing territorial, river, maritime, or identity claim. If a claim is already known to be ongoing based on ICOW research, any events over that claim that meet the descriptions on this page are recorded in the "Claim Escalation and Provocations" or "Peaceful Claim Management" section of the quarterly review. If no claim is known to be ongoing, the events in the story are investigated more closely to determine whether they represent a new claim; if not, the situation is noted in the "Potential Claims" section of the quarterly review.

Types of Events

Claim Escalation and Provocations

An important part of contentious issues is militarized action or other provocative behavior. Such events carry the risk of escalation to war, and are thus important to early warning of especially dangerous situations. We record both events involving the threat or use of military forces and events that involve non-military provocations by political leaders or civilians.

Militarized Action:
Non-Militarized Action:

Peaceful Claim Management

Although armed conflict and militarization make the most headlines, publushed research has shown that even territorial claims -- the most conflict-prone of these four issues -- see far more episodes of peaceful conflict management than armed conflicts. We record the three primary types of peaceful claim settlement techniques that have been studied in most past published research, including details of any agreements that are produced, as well as other events that reflect progress in the management of the issue.

Peaceful claim settlement techniques:
Types of agreements:
Other peaceful claim management activities:

Potential Claims

Each quarter sees dozens of situations that resemble claims in some respects, but do not meet the full definition listed above. Even though these do not currently qualify as codable claims, they are worth monitoring in case conditions change and they eventually qualify, and they help to illustrate the definitions and coding rules that the ICOW project uses to identify claims.

Last updated: 7 February 2020
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