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The purpose of some research studies is to simply record information or to describe associations, not to manipulate variables. Studies like these are called observational or descriptive studies, whereas studies that manipulate one or more independent variables are called experiments. Once a researcher decides to use an observational or descriptive study, the next choice is between a cross-sectional research design and a longitudinal research design. In a cross-sectional design, researchers take measurements, or record data, at a single time point from people who differ in one characteristic of interest (e.g., age) but are similar in other characteristics (e.g., socioeconomic status, ethnic background, education level). In contrast, in a longitudinal design, researchers measure the same people over multiple time points, usually across an extended period. By ...

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