Longitudinal research is one of the most popular and widely used research designs. In the note, one will learn about the definition, kinds, pros and disadvantages of longitudinal studies and how to perform longitudinal research.
What is Longitudinal Research?
A longitudinal study is a correlational research in which researchers watch and gather data on several variables without attempting to affect them. It involves studying variables for an extended period and observing their changes from time to time. There are three distinct kinds of longitudinal studies:
Panel study: In a panel study, the researchers gather data from the same sample several times. These studies assess the behaviour of individuals over time, especially their views, feelings, and thoughts. Panel studies are dominated by quantitative analysis. However, it is possible sometimes to collect qualitative data for qualitative research.
Cohort study: A cohort study is a type of longitudinal research that examines a group of people with a common trait. Researchers examine a population based on the everyday experience of a particular occurrence, such as birth, geographical location or historical background. Medical researchers often use these studies.
Trend study: A recurrent cross-sectional study in which the same set of questions is addressed to multiple groups/target populations at different times is called a trend study. Trend studies study the evolution over time of concepts/variables, cohort studies look at the development over time of the behaviour of the same group, and panel studies look at the evolution over time of individuals.
How to Conduct Longitudinal Research?
If you want to do longitudinal research, you have two options: gathering one’s data using information from other sources or gathering your information. If you choose to gather your information, you have the option of doing retrospective or prospective longitudinal research, which will define your approach. In retrospective research, data are collected about past occurrences. In future research, you follow a group of individuals across time, gathering real-time data and utilising information from various sources. One can use Survey Point to conduct longitudinal research and collect longitudinal data.
Numerous governments and academic institutions conduct longitudinal studies and make the data openly accessible to the public. These data are often quite reliable and enable you to examine long-term trends.
Merits of Longitudinal Research
It increases validity. Longitudinal research is a lengthy investigation. Its legitimacy is confirmed beforehand, which gives the findings high reliability. Further, it facilitates the identification of trends in medicine, psychology, and society. The longitudinal nature of research permits the identification of patterns and linkages within real-time data collection. The preliminary data can be used for no future outcomes and have produced remarkable findings. It offers flexibility. Researchers have greater freedom with this type of study than with other types of research.
Cons of Longitudinal Research
Expensive and time-consuming: Longitudinal studies can take up to a year or more to complete. It makes them costly and time-consuming. Researchers have difficulty recruiting volunteers, which results in smaller sample sizes.
Research requires a large sample size: Insufficient data can prevent researchers from generating meaningful results.
Attrition: It is not only challenging to recruit subjects, but also subjects are more likely to drop out or leave the study due to illness, relocation, or lack of motivation to finish the study. This phenomenon is called selective attrition, which can compromise an experiment’s validity.
Comparison of Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Studies
Cross-sectional studies and longitudinal studies are often misunderstood. A cross-sectional study is distinct from a longitudinal study. While variables in research can change throughout a study, it only observes one instance. All variables remain the same throughout the study. Further, to better examine the relationship between variables, a longitudinal study could be done in conjunction with a cross-sectional one.