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What Is Longitudinal Research?

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Definition:

Longitudinal research is a type of research method used to discover relationships between variables that are not related to various background variables. This observational research technique involves studying the same group of individuals over an extended period of time.

Data is first collected at the outset of the study, and may then be gathered repeatedly throughout the length of the study. In some cases, longitudinal studies can last several decades.

Benefits of Longitudinal Research

The benefit of this type of research is that it allows researchers to look at changes over time. Because of this, longitudinal methods are particularly useful when studying development and lifespan issues.

Drawbacks of Longitudinal Research

However, longitudinal studies require enormous amounts of time and are often quite expensive. Because of this, these studies often have only a small group of subjects, which makes it difficult to apply the results to a larger population. Another problem is that participants sometimes drop out of the study, shrinking the sample size and decreasing the amount of data collected.

Types of Longitudinal Research

There are three major types of longitudinal studies:

  • Panel Study: Involves sampling a cross-section of individuals.

  • Cohort Study: Involves selecting a group based on a specific event such as birth, geographic location or historical experience.

  • Retrospective Study: Involves looking to the past by looking at historical information such as medical records.

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References:

Gratton, C., & Jones, I. (2004). Research methods for sports studies. London: Routledge.

Trochim, W.M.K. (2006). Time in research. Research Methods Knowledge Base. Web Center for Social Research Methods. Found online at http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/timedim.php

Also Known As: Longitudinal Study

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