Cross Sectional Study

The cross sectional study looks at a different aspect than the standard longitudinal study.

Research Design

This article is a part of the course "Research Design".

The longitudinal study uses time as the main variable, and tries to make an in depth study of how a small sample changes and fluctuates over time.

A cross sectional study, on the other hand, takes a snapshot of a population at a certain time, allowing conclusions about phenomena across a wide population to be drawn.

An example of a cross-sectional study would be a medical study looking at the prevalence of breast cancer in a population. The researcher can look at a wide range of ages, ethnicities and social backgrounds. If a significant number of women from a certain social background are found to have the disease, then the researcher can investigate further.

This is a relatively easy way to perform a preliminary experiment, allowing the researcher to focus on certain population groups and understand the wider picture.

Of course, researchers often use both methods, using a cross section to take the snapshot and isolate potential areas of interest, and then conducting a longitudinal study to find the reason behind the trend.

This is called panel data, or time series cross-sectional data, but is generally a complicated and expensive type of research, notoriously difficult to analyze.

Such programs are rare, but can give excellent data, allowing a long-term picture of phenomena to be ascertained.

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Citation: 

(Jun 16, 2010). Cross Sectional Study. Retrieved Apr 24, 2014 from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/cross-sectional-study