What if you want to study how things develop over time? In that case, you have two options. You can go with a longitudinal design, or a cross-sectional design. Let’s check them out.

Media: Researching development over time

This video describes the two approaches for studying development over time.

Key points:

Cross-sectional vs. Longitudinal
Cross-sectional (“between subject”) Longitudinal (“within subject”)
  • Quick
  • Access to more participants
  • Lower costs
  • Greater confidence in results
  • Greater detail
Disadvantages Potential period bias
  • Costly
  • Time consuming
  • Limited access to participants

Reflective Activities: find your own examples

  • Find an academic journal article that covers a topic in your chosen field (or a topic of your research interest) that utilises a ‘Cross-sectional’ and/or ‘Longitudinal’ approach. How was this approach effective in the author’s investigation?
  • How do the designs affect your confidence in the authors’ results and conclusions? Post your thoughts in the discussion forum.