Human Rights Research Project
Digging Into Human Rights Data

Our Research


About Our Current Research

The Human Rights Research Project at Western University is the Canadian component of the "Digging into Human Rights Violations: Anaphora Resolution and Emergent Witnesses” project (DIGHRV project). The DIGHRV project aims at developing an automatic text reader that can take some qualitative analysis tasks automatically through Natural Language Processing algorithms. The Canadian team’s focus is to understand the practice of data analysis in human rights violation research that offers insights on the user interface design requirements of the text reader and to develop a UI prototype for the tool.
The Canadian team currently consists of five members: Principle Investigator, Dr. Lu Xiao; Research Associate, Tatiana Vashchilko; and three Research Assistants: Jill R. Kavanaugh, Vicky Yan, and Lindsay Baker. We also have international collaborator Dr. Mary Beth Rosson, and consultant Dr. Agnes Sandor.

Work Progress

The Canadian team recently performed an extensive literature review in order to identify the use of primary and secondary data about human rights violations, as well as the methods of data analysis in Political Science research community. After an exhaustive search of the Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (WPSA) database, the Research Associate identified 2796 articles. Using exclusion criteria, the results were further narrowed to a total of 31 relevant articles. The Principle Investigator and the Research Associate then developed an extensive coding scheme, focusing heavily on the various components of sample data, including format, accessibility, sources, analysis methods, and analysis software. Using the coding scheme, the Research Associate and Research Assistant performed a content analysis of the 31 articles, achieving an initial agreement of 97%; however, with further discussion between the coders, 100% agreement was reached. All three team members analyzed the results, and agreed upon several themes.

The team’s preliminary findings indicate that human rights violation research in the political science realm lacks analysis of primary data. Articles that examined data from more than 3 countries relied on publicly available secondary sources, whereas articles with a narrow geographic focus (1 or 2 countries) used private, primary data, such as local media reports or interviews.