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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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