“Information Is Not Knowledge”: An analysis of overlap in the reporting of casualties in Sierra Leone, 1997-2001
In this paper, I develop a method I call “overlap analysis” to compare five data sources on civilian casualties during armed conflict in Sierra Leone (1997-2001). The data sources are exemplary of data types used in political violence research as well as human rights data analysis. By triangulating and linking casualty records across the five data, I find no overlap in their reporting beyond joint agreement on the peak moment of violence in early 1999. This provides evidence of each data source’s incompleteness. Further, I provide empirical evidence of systematic differences in record capture, which I attribute to characteristics of the specific data-generating processes underlying each data source. My findings demonstrate that practices of data triangulation, record linkage, and overlap analysis inform conflict scholars about data completeness and representativeness of their empirical analysis.