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This article covers what longitudinal study is, what are its types, the different ways of collecting data for a longitudinal study, as well as its advantages and disadvantages.
Longitudinal surveys, on the other hand, involves studying variables for a long period of time and observing the changes in them from time to time. Here, the data is collected from the respondents at the beginning of the study, and then the researcher collects data at different time intervals until the end of the study. Longitudinal surveys are more popularly used in medicinal science to understand and evaluate the effects of medicines, or vaccines, in the long-run on participants. Because longitudinal surveys take place for several years, researchers can establish the sequence of events that may affect the variable under study.
Longitudinal studies involve the use of research surveys in order to collect qualitative or quantitative data. In a longitudinal study, the creator of the survey does not intervene with the participants of the survey. Instead, they distribute the questionnaires over time in order to observe changes in the participants, their behaviour, or attitudes. Most medical studies tend to be longitudinal where the researchers collect data and observe the same participants over several years.
If you plan to collect data for your longitudinal study, the way you go about collecting it will be determined whether you are doing a retrospective or a prospective study.
In a retrospective study, the data is collected on events that have already happened. Whereas, in a prospective study, one can choose a group of participants, follow them over time and collect data in real time. In general, retrospective studies are less time consuming and cost-effective as compared to prospective studies. However, they are also more prone to error in measurement as compared to prospective study.
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Although both cross-sectional and longitudinal research methods are quantitative in nature, there are several differences amongst them. In a cross-sectional study, researchers collect data of a variable at a specific point in time while in a longitudinal study, the data is collected at different times. In longitudinal studies, variables tend to change over time as well.
Researchers use cross-sectional research to find commonalities between different variables. They use longitudinal studies in order to dissect the findings of the cross-sectional study further. Let’s look at the differences between the two in detail:
Longitudinal studies take a longer time to be completed, ranging from years to even decades sometimes.
Cross-sectional studies tend to be less time-consuming and quick to administer.
Here, the researcher observes participants at different periods in times
Here, the researcher conducts the study over a predetermined specific period of time.
Cause-effect relationship is provided by longitudinal studies.
Cause-effect relationships are not provided by Cross-sectional studies.
Here, only one variable is observed and studied in detail.
Here, different variables are observed at a single point in time.
Longitudinal studies are more expensive and thus, not very accessible to companies and researchers.
Cross-sectional studies are cost-effective and thus a popular means of study for companies and researchers.
This section covers the advantages and disadvantages of conducting longitudinal studies:
Advantages of longitudinal studies”
Disadvantages of longitudinal studies
The advantages show us the enormous value of longitudinal studies have to offer, and the disadvantages tell us how to properly plan and execute longitudinal studies to avoid errors and potential biases.
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Longitudinal studies help us compare various business and branding aspects in market research which in turn help us in creating and deploying relevant surveys. Some of the examples of surveys that are used by market researchers when conducting a longitudinal study are:
Example 1: Smoking and Cancer
If researchers want to understand how smoking affects the development of cancer in later stages of life, they would choose participants who are different from other observable variables but similar in one: smoking. In this case, researchers would observe the participants who started smoking from adolescence into later adulthood and examine the changes in their body that are caused due to smoking. They can see how smoking has influenced the immunity of participants, their reaction to stress, and other variables relevant to the researcher. Over time, researchers can also observe the effects of quitting smoking if some participants decide to quit smoking later in their life. This will help researchers understand the interaction between health and smoking in more detail.
Example 2: Violent video games and aggression
Suppose a researcher wants to understand if playing violent games is linked with violent behaviours. They could collect data from a large amount of participants for the study. In order to reduce the influence of habits, researchers can choose individuals who already play video games a lot. With parental consent, researchers can observe the age groups of 13 to 19 for the study. The researchers will have to first establish a baseline of the aggression in the participants at the onset of the study for later comparison. The researchers can ask the participants to keep track of time they spend playing video games. The study can last from months to years. During this period, the researchers can correlate the amount of time participants play the video games, the violent content of the game, and the aggressive behaviours of the participants and thus establish a link between aggression and violent video games.
Create and analyze a longitudinal study survey
You can conduct your own longitudinal study by creating an insightful survey with the help of Voxco! You can use our survey templates or build your own survey from scratch, you can use Voxco for building your marketing strategies or medical studies, we are here to help you through it all!
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