The Time Dimension in Research

Posted by Sohail Khatri  |  at  8:33 PM No comments

Another dimension of research is the treatment of time. Some studies give us a snapshot of a single, fixed time point and allow us to analyze it in detail. Other studies provide a moving picture that lets us follow events, people, or sale of products over a period of time. In this way from the angle of time research could be divided into two broad types:

a. Cross-Sectional Research. In cross-sectional research, researchers observe at one point in time. Cross-sectional research is usually the simplest and least costly alternative. Its disadvantage is that it cannot capture the change processes. Cross-sectional research can be exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory, but it is most consistent with a descriptive approach to research.

b. Longitudinal Research. Researchers using longitudinal research examine features of people or other units at more than one time. It is usually more complex and costly than cross-sectional research but it is also more powerful, especially when researchers seek answers to questions about change. There are three types of longitudinal research: time series, panel, and cohort.

i. Time series research is longitudinal study in which the same type of information is collected on a group of people or other units across multiple time periods. Researcher can observe stability or change in the features of the units or can track conditions overtime. One could track the characteristics of students registering in the course on Research Methods over a period of four years i.e. the characteristics (Total, age characteristics, gender distribution, subject distribution, and geographic distribution). Such an analysis could tell us the trends in the characteristic over the four years.

ii. The panel study is a powerful type of longitudinal research. In panel study, the researcher observes exactly the same people, group, or organization across time periods. It is a difficult to carry out such study. Tracking people over time is often difficult because some people die or cannot be located. Nevertheless, the results of a well-designed panel study are very valuable.

iii. A cohort analysis is similar to the panel study, but rather than observing the exact same people, a category of people who share a similar life experience in a specified time period is studied. The focus is on the cohort, or category, not on specific individuals. Commonly used cohorts include all people born in the same year (called birth cohorts), all people hired at the same time, all people retire on one or two year time frame, and all people who graduate in a given year. Unlike panel studies, researchers do not have to locate the exact same people for cohort studies. The only need to identify those who experienced a common life event.

Tags: Research
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