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Research methods

As an international Nordic research institute with long-term experience, Nordregio uses a wide array of research methods. Each assignment is unique and has specific research requirements that must be completed to fulfill the goals.

Below is a brief introduction of commonly used research methods.

Multilevel and comparative analyses at different geographic scales

We specialize in international multilevel and comparative research, and through our leading-edge skills we carry out advanced quantitative and qualitative analyses on many different geographic scales.

  • Qualitatively with the help of policy analysis, expert interviews, stakeholder workshops, focus group meetings, case studies, hands-on research, discours analysis and literature studies.
  • Quantitatively with the help of statistical analasis, GIS, maps and charts.

Due to the fact that Nordregio operates on a series of different levels, we have developed an in-depth understanding of multi-level analysis and a wealth of experience in harmonizing data with different origins and at different scales.

Nordregio also serves as a link between Nordic and European research in our fields of expertise, ensuring that we have unique competencies in comparative research.

Examples of Nordregio projects with analyses at different geographic scales

Case studies

Because of the comparative focus at Nordregio, many of the research projects undertaken at the institute are built on the extensive use of case studies. These can be prospective or retrospective and can take place at a variety of geographic scales.

The use of case studies and comparative case studies allows for a more in-depth analysis of an event or process. Where purely quantitative data falls short, the case study offers the possibility to complement research with a more qualitative perspective, often including accounts from the subjects themselves.

Examples of Nordregio projects with case studies:


Nordregio has long-term experience in performing evaluations of smaller regional and national projects as well as of EU programmes such as INTERREG and FP7, and other entities.

Every evaluation assignment is unique. Therefore, we strive to find solutions that are well adapted to the project or task at hand and that fit the needs of our client. We take on ex ante, mid-term and ex post evaluations.

Examples of Nordregio evaluation projects:

Ongoing evaluations

Too many development projects focus on short term results rather than long term effects. To create lasting results, many projects need to be supplemented with a perspective that emphasises what can be learned from the outcomes, through which evaluations become an integral part of the project. That's why it is increasingly common to use on-going evaluations (följeforskning).

There is no clear cut definition of the term, but it usually involves external researchers and/or consultants following the project over a longer period of time in order to document the progress, support the management, and facilitate the sharing of experiences, as well as critically examine the steps taken. Unlike more traditional forms of evaluation, ongoing evaluations entail a more process oriented way of working, with a focus on learning and understanding in dialogue with the actors involved. The purpose is to produce results that feed the decision-making process and support organizational learning.

Examples of Nordregio ongoing evaluation projects:


Benchmarking is a tool employed to measure performance by using specific indicators like cost and time, which are then compared with "best practices" in the field. The purpose is to gain insight and knowledge and convert this into improvements within the organisation.

Examples of Nordregio benchmarking projects:

Scenarios, forecasting and foresight analysis

In a changing world, it can be hard to plan for the future. In doing so, strategies on how to make good and sensible policy decisions are necessary. Nordregio uses several different foresight methods and techniques for predicting or capturing future outcomes in order to provide planners and policy makers with solid information on which decisions can be based.

Regardless of whether you use a quantitative or qualitative approach, it is fruitful to present research results in scenarios. Departing from studies that typically focus on the past, scenarios make it possible to develop potential outcomes for the future, with the aim of helping planners and policy makers prepare for future challenges.

Examples of Nordregio projects with scenarios, forecasting and foresight analysis:

Advanced quantitative analyses

The Nordic countries are at the international forefront in terms of the collection and compilation of data and statistics; offering a wealth of time series and panel data covering a wide range of issues. Nordregio has the competencies to apply this data, not only in comparative studies, but also through the use of statistical and econometric methods for unveiling significant relationships across time and between countries, regions and industries. Spatial econometrics and cluster analysis are examples of the techniques that may be applied and combined with the in-house GIS expertise.

The wealth of data available in the Nordic countries generally ensures that for a broad range of quantitative analysis studies, data from the Nordic countries is compatible with data from across Europe and around the world.

Examples of Nordregio projects with quantitative analyses