Methods and Processes


MCIAT devoted the first two weeks of the project to establishing a Terms of Reference (TOR) that would clearly state the main questions and scope of the estimate. Team members integrated input from our decisionmaker, professor, and open sources to put forth a TOR that accomplished this task by framing the questions in a way that would yield valuable estimates.
  • By dedicating the first two weeks of the project to constructing a precise Terms of Reference, MCIAT gained the direction required to focus research on information relevant to the estimate while excluding information that was beyond the scope of the Key Estimative Question and Secondary Questions.
  • Collaborating with and receiving final approval of the TOR from the decisionmaker proved invaluable since analysts obtained a clear understanding of the goals of the project, enabling the team to create an estimate that specifically addressed the decisionmaker’s concerns.


MCIAT consisted of four undergraduates from the Mercyhurst Institute for Intelligence Studies (MCIIS). Prior to the assignment, analysts had already established a common language and professional rapport. This advantage facilitated correspondence within and between teams and uniformity among analytical reports.
  • Assigning analysts to individual republics within the North Caucasus allowed MCIAT to identify trends they otherwise would have overlooked when studying the problem at a broader level. This method of organization was crucial for the production of insightful, nuanced, and comprehensive analysis.


MCIAT utilized Mercyhurst College’s robust resources to access reliable and credible journal articles, white papers, and books that highlighted current trends and developments in the insurgency in the North Caucasus. Analysts also conducted significant web-based research and employed the services of outside contributors. Primary resources used by the analysts can be found on the Resources page on the navigation toolbar.


To answer the Key Estimative Question and Secondary Questions, MCIAT created a database with all the reported violent attacks in the North Caucasus ranging from September 2006 to September 2007. The team also mapped those attacks on four separate interactive maps using the online tool from Also, each MCIAT analyst created estimative reports for their respective republics, with the following four topics: insurgent activity, effectiveness of security forces, political situations, and demographic/socio-economic issues. Information from the violence database and estimative reports were also entered into Analysis of Competing Hypotheses Matrices, to show both the likely future trends of violence, and the primary reasons contributing to those trends.
  • Violence Database: MCIAT divided the past 13 months amongst the four analysts, who then added the violent attacks in their assigned months to both the GoogleDocs violence database spreadsheet and CommunityWalk maps. The data was then utilized to analyze trends of the insurgency, examining the following fields: insurgent casualties, civilian casualties, security forces casualties, geographic location, and insurgent groups involved. The analysts primarily used information from Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre and the Russia Eurasia Terror Watch to document each individual attack.
  • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses: The purpose of an ACH Matrix is to develop a full set of alternative hypotheses or possibilities by assessing the compatibility of each piece of evidence to each possibility. ACH uses Consistency ratings to calculate an Inconsistency Score for each hypothesis. Evidence that is Inconsistent (I) counts one point, and Very Inconsistent (II) counts two points. Because the focus is on refuting hypotheses rather than confirming them, only Inconsistent and Very Inconsistent evidence is counted in the Inconsistency Score. The Inconsistency Score is a simple count of the number of items of Inconsistent and Very Inconsistent evidence for each hypothesis. The Weighted Inconsistency Score follows the same principle but adjusts the score according to the Credibility and Relevance of the evidence. The Inconsistency Scores only tell you what you told the program to say through your selection of hypotheses and evidence and your evaluation of that evidence. The scores give you a rough approximation of the most to least likely hypotheses.
  • Link Analysis: For the Link Analysis chart we collected information regarding individuals and groups involved from the Russia Eurasia Terror Watch, specifically from the North Caucasus Militant Leadership forum, Chechnya Weekly within the Jamestown Foundation, and also, from Gordan Hahn's book, Russia's Islamic Threat. This information then formed the insurgency on the link chart into three major fronts, including the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), Foreign Volunteers, and North Caucasian Fronts, all unified by the High Command of the ChRI. Within this structure, the key nodes developed according to the number of links an insurgent had, thus measuring his importance in the insurgency.


MICAT produced its final product within the Wiki itself. Each individual analyst wrote the analytical reports for their respective republics. The team worked together in the production of the violence database, mapping, link analysis, and the key findings. Each analyst was assigned another team member's reports to internally edit, and prepare for dissemination. The use of the Wiki, GoogleDocs spreadsheet, and CommunityWalk map made the entire project entirely collaborative and always accessible.