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, https://www.globalpolicy.org/us-un-and-international-law-8-24/torture-and-prison-abuse.html.
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, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-revoking-2009-order-moves-to-keep-guantanamo-open-indefinitely/2018/01/30/c45a0b02-061b-11e8-8777-2a059f168dd2_story.html.