What is cross-sectional design?

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A cross-sectional design can be defined as a quasi-experimental between-subjects design which the people involved are observed at different ages and/or at difference periods of time in a time-based sequence (Heiman, 2002). An example of this would be an experiment that is observing children who are different ages. A great advantage of cross-sectional designs is that the study can be conducted and finished easily and fairly quickly. However, a disadvantage of these types of designs is that the conditions might become different in terms of how many confounding variables there are (Heiman, 2002).

Example / Application

Example: [Hypothetical Research Project - Observations of a Different Group of Children at Each Age]

Application: When you conduct an experiment in which you observe children of different ages, you are selecting a cross-section of ages and choosing to "test the vocabulary of a group of 4-year-olds, a different group of 5-year-olds, and so on" (Heiman, 2002).

Example: - Figure 1 Prevalence of lifetime DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence by gender and birth Cohorts 3 and 4

Application: Here is an example of a table that is taken from a cross-sectional design.


Heiman, G. W., (2002). Research Methods in Psychology. 3rd Edition. Boston & New York. Houghton Mifflin Company.

The Brief Addiction Science Information Source (BASIS), (2008). The DRAM Vol. 4(2) - Gender and Drinking – Maybe We Aren’t so Different After All Retrieved from: http://www.basisonline.org/2008/03/index.html

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