Florea, Adrian. (2012) Where Do We Go from Here? Conceptual, Theoretical, and Methodological Gaps in the Large-N Civil War Research Program. International Studies Review, doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2486.2012.01102.x
Since the early 1990s, the large-N civil war research program has been a vibrant one but has reached an analytical plateau because methodological issues have obscured fundamental conceptual and theoretical concerns. The existing ground-clearing work has shed light on macro- and micro-level determinants of internal conflict onset, duration, and termination, but has left the field theoretically impoverished. This article discusses remaining gaps in the quantitative civil war literature, and proposes conceptual, theoretical, and methodological remedies. Five main lacunae are identified. First, civil war may be a longer process, with several waves of escalation and de-escalation, than generally described in the extant literature. Second, existing theories conflate civil conflict with violence—war onset and violence may be conceptually distinct. Third, we have few systemic-level theories of civil war onset and duration. Fourth, we need better theories that allow us to determine whether civil wars are different from other types of wars. Finally, we need to go beyond state-centric monadic approaches, and be more rigorous when building our models for explaining civil war onset, duration, or termination.