Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School

Political Science

First Advisor

Gregory Plagens, Ph.D

Second Advisor

Barbara Patrick, Ph.D

Third Advisor

Ann R. Eisenberg, Ph.D.


This paper seeks to examine how the American public defined terrorism after the September 11th Attacks. At this time there is much discourse on the response to the September 11th Attacks with the war on terror, and the war’s effect on both American society and the global community Because of that, this paper takes a step back from simply examining policy to see how the definition formed of terrorism influence the American political view of terrorism, and how it compares to the view of terrorism after the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Through the use of qualitative and quantitative data from Congressional meetings and news articles, as well as qualitative data about the content within the aforementioned media sources, this thesis works to demonstrate how the attention given to the September 11th Attacks made the space for the public to define terrorism as warfare. The evidence suggests the September 11th Attacks were such a strong issue proponents in the public sphere that they forced the public to define terrorism, and that circumstances that surrounded the attack are what made the content of the definition.