Event Data

Event data -- nominal or ordinal codes recording the interactions between international actors -- are one of the most common types of information used in quantitative international relations research. The creation of event data is basically a process content analysis and involves three steps:

  1. A source or sources of news about political interactions is identified. This could be an internationally-oriented newspaper such as The New York Times, a set of regional newspapers and newsmagazines, a news summary such as Facts on File or Deadline Data on World Affairs, or a newswire service such as Reuters or the Associated Press.

  2. A coding system is developed, or a researcher may decide to use an existing coding system such as the World Events Interaction Survey (WEIS) or Conflict and Peace Data Bank (COPDAB) systems. The coding system specifies what types of political interactions constitute an "event," identifies the political actors that will be coded (for example, whether nonstate actors such as international organizations and guerrilla movements will be included in the data set), specifies the categories of events and their codes, and specifies any information to be coded in addition to the basic event. For example, the COPDAB data set codes a general "issue area"-- whether an action is primarily military, economic, diplomatic or one of five other types of relationship. WEIS, in contrast, codes for specific "issue arenas" such as the Vietnam War, Arab- Israeli conflict, and SALT negotiations.

  3. In a machine-coding project, coding rules are implemented in a computer program such as TABARI by using extensive dictionaries which identify actors and events and then associate these with specific codes. These dictionaries are developed by coding a large number of test sentences from the actual data and adding the appropriate vocabulary when the machines makes an error.