The working title of his PHD project is Democracy besides Elections: An Exploration into the Development and Causes of Respect for Civil Liberties in Latin American and Post-Communist Countries. The dissertation addresses the extent of civil liberty (freedom of: opinion and expression, assembly and association, religion, movement and residence as well as independent courts) in 20 Latin American and 28 post-communist countries. Apart from tracking the development of respect for civil liberties from the late 1970's till 2003, it also attempts to explain the present level of respect by examining different structural explanations, such as historical experience with liberty, ethno-religious composition, modernization and natural resources (primarily oil).
Skaaning has constructed his own dataset and index on civil liberties based on coding of the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices from 1977 to 2003, which he uses in his descriptive analysis of the development and as the dependent variable in the subsequent causal assessment. In this stage of the research, he both undertakes intraregional analyses, utilizing the fuzzy-set method and OLS-regression, and interregional comparisons.
Skaaning received his B.A. (2000) and M.A. (2003) in Political Science from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, where he is also a PHD scholar in the final year. Parts of his MA degree were completed at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität (Heidelberg) and Freie Universität (Berlin).