Difference Between Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Study

Key Difference – Longitudinal vs Cross-Sectional Study
 

Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Study are two types of research studies between which a key difference can be identified. The researcher who decides to conduct research on a particular subject can use many research designs. Longitudinal Study and Cross-Sectional Study are two such examples. A longitudinal study is a research study in which the research continues for a longer period and uses the same sample at each phase. On the contrary, a cross-sectional study is a research where the researcher analyses a particular context, group of people or else a social phenomenon through a sample. The key difference between the two studies stem from the fact that while a cross-sectional study presents the researcher with a cross-sectional analysis of the research, a longitudinal study presents a series of analysis in each phase of the research.

What is a Longitudinal Study?

As mentioned in the introduction, a longitudinal study is a research study in which the research continues for a longer period of time and uses the same sample at each phase. These types of studies are conducted in order to analyze the evolving features or characteristics in a population. Longitudinal studies are quite common in the social sciences. These allow the researcher to study a single sample throughout the years or months to come up with conclusions.

Let us comprehend this through an example. Imagine a researcher conducts a special research on the acculturation of refugee children to the host country. If the researcher wishes to conduct a longitudinal study, he first selects a sample of refugee children. Then he studies the immediate impact of acculturation on the children. Since this research goes on for a long period of time, the researcher continues to study with intervals. This can be monthly, annually, etc.

However, conducting a longitudinal study is not easy. There are many obstacles that the researcher faces. One of the main concerns is locating the individuals of the sample. In some cases, some participants can be deceased or moved to another region. Now let us move on to the cross-sectional study.

Difference Between Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Study

What is a Cross-Sectional Study?

A cross-sectional study is a research where the researcher analyses a particular context, group of people or else a social phenomenon through a sample. This is a research design that is used widely by researchers as it allows them to comprehend and analyze a particular setting.

Let us take the same example. If a researcher is interested in the study of the acculturation of refugee children to the host country he can conduct a cross-sectional study. In this case, the researcher gains a clear idea of the present condition of the refugee children. He studies the issues, the protective factors and the experience of the children. This, however, is not followed by various phases. This is the main difference between the two studies.

 Longitudinal vs Cross-Sectional Study Key difference

What is the Difference Between Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Study?

Definitions of Longitudinal Study and Cross-Sectional Study:

Longitudinal Study: A longitudinal study is a research study in which the research continues for a longer period of time and uses the same sample at each phase.

Cross-Sectional Study: A cross-sectional study is a research where the researcher analyses a particular context, group of people, or else a social phenomenon through a sample.

Characteristics of Longitudinal Study and Cross-Sectional Study:

Time duration:

Longitudinal Study: A longitudinal study goes on for a longer period of time.

Cross-Sectional Study: A cross-sectional study is completed only once.

Nature of Study:

Longitudinal Study: A longitudinal study presents an idea of the evolution of the research topic.

Cross-Sectional Study: These studies present a cross-sectional analysis.

Sampling:

Longitudinal Study: The sample chosen for the research is studied in a number of occasions to comprehend a difference or change.

Cross-Sectional Study: The sample is studied only once.

 

Image Courtesy:
1. “Survey Research Books” by User:Jtneill – Own work. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons
2. “Microscopy lab” by Idaho National Laboratory – Flickr: Microscopy lab. [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons