What is the difference between cross-sectional and longitudinal research?

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Feb 21, 2016


In cross sectional study two or more samples are drawn from same population and same variable(s) is/are studied in them while in longitudinal study variables are measured at two or more distinct points in time.


Cross sectional study involves two or more samples from same population at the same time. Same variables are then studied in all the samples drawn.
For example two samples of graduate students are drawn from university. One sample is of students with higher grades and other one is of the students with low grades and the variable of happiness was measured in both samples at one point in time. This is cross sectional study.
In longitudinal study variables are measured in sample(s) over a period of time. It has further three types:
Trend study: In this type two or more samples are drawn from same population but at different points in time. For example every batch of graduate students is asked for opinion when they graduate.
Cohort study: This type involves small group with same traits. For example color choice (variable) is accessed in people born between year 1990 to 1995. Here year 1990-1995 is a trait.
Panel study: In panel studies same sample is studied at different points in time. For example problem solving approach (variable) was measured in a sample of employees when they joined an organization. Then the same variable was measured after one year of their job.
cross sectional study gives information from different groups of the population while longitudinal study gives net or gross measurements about population or sample and the changes occurred in population over time.

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