Research Portfolio Post #7

For my small-n research design, I plan to compare two of the cases I chose for my large-n research design to examine more thoroughly: Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. I chose to keep the unit for each case the same as the large-n design, as individual prisons allow the balance I desire for more specificity than state-wide analysis yet a large enough scale to presume some degree of generalizability. I chose Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, specifically, due to the amount of similarities and control in each circumstance. They do, however, also seem to demonstrate enough variation in potential dependent variables, such as the number of years of operation as I used in the large-n design, that a comparison would be significant and meaningful.

For my dependent variable, I am interested in using news and media sources as reflections of public response to each prison in order to uncover differences in attitude by the American public as well as international community to torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. This makes news articles and responses published at the time of each prison’s operation primary sources for my research, and I have started reading various articles from major national news outlets to get a sense of how I might operationalize and measure public attitude.

Comparing two Washington Post articles on Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, respectively, drew my attention to the differences in language used about each prison. In Graham’s 2004 article on the closure of Abu Ghraib, the ethics of torture in Iraq are not described as questionable or debatable, they are presumed to be wrong. The only debate in the article is regarding who to blame.¹ Conversely, the 2018 article by Ryan and Nakashima engages in the now partisan debate on the necessity of keeping Guantanamo open, which implicitly includes the continuation of torture.²

Though the differences in the two articles are apparent to me, I recognize that language and connotations are often subjective, and I am struggling with operationalization. I am considering using a software that counts how many times certain words are used in selected texts and comparing them across articles on each prison, but I fear the variation will not be apparent with this method. As I continue to read, I will be looking for more concrete trends in the articles that I may be able to measure more tangibly.

¹ Bradley Graham, “Torture and Prison Abuse,” last modified August 26, 2004, accessed October 11, 2018,
² Missy Ryan and Ellen Nakashima, “Trump, Reversing 2009 Move, Vows to Keep Guantanamo Open Indefinitely,” Washington Post, last modified January 31, 2018, accessed October 29, 2018,

Research Portfolio Post #6

Until this week during which our class’ focus shifted to large-n neo-positivist research, I had mostly considered my puzzle in terms of a handful of cases I was familiar with. I was aware, however, that torture has been used in prisons worldwide for centuries. Because I am interested in investigating the causes for the closure of each of these facilities, I knew I needed to address the duration of operation in each prison utilizing torture. Therefore, to compare a larger number of cases in a large-n research project, I would use years of operation as my dependent variable, allowing me to have an interval-ratio value to analyze statistically if needed. Ideally the nature of my independent variable will demonstrate some kind of correlation to the number of years each institution remained open.

As for finding the data for my dependent variable, I could not find any datasets including information on duration of prison operation internationally, especially not regarding prisons of torture. Given the specificity and scale of my subject matter I expected to need to search for my own data and found a few sources that I might be able to pull from. First, I found that the United Nations has a Committee Against Torture which publishes factsheets on systems of torture and the organization’s actions in response.¹ While not all of the information on torture is specifically related to prisons, I can sift through the data and pick the cases relevant to my research. The limitation of the UN site is that the information is mostly about ongoing crises and there is not necessarily a precise duration in years listed for each case. Regarding the scope, there is some measure of information on almost every country’s involvement with the committee and/or record with torture.

Another organization that has poured significant resources into investigating the persistence of detainee torture is Amnesty International. As an NGO dedicated to achieving human rights globally, Amnesty International has published numerous reports detailing the facts surrounding various torture practices globally.² This is another source I can sift through to find cases matching the parameters of my research to use for my dependent variable. The potential limitation on this data is that it is funded by a private organization, so it will be essential for me to consider the organization’s motivations and perspectives in finding their data. As for scope, Amnesty International provides a slightly broader offering of cases going further back in time and they also describe issues at the sub-state level more frequently than the United Nations.

¹ “OHCHR | Committee against Torture,” United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, accessed October 11, 2018,
² “Torture and Prison Abuse,” accessed October 11, 2018,