Medicine (MD/DO)
Public Health
Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Cross-Sectional Study

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Cross-Sectional Study

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Cross-Sectional Study

Cross-section of the Earth
A cross-sectional study takes a sample from a defined population at one specific point in time. By collecting this data, the researcher can assess the frequency of a disease and perhaps associated factors. The researcher asks, "What's happening?" with respect to the particular population being studied to catalog disease prevalence.

A cross-sectional study is an observational study; the researcher cannot influence the outcome by changing variables.

(Asks) "What's Happening?"
Confused-researcher asks "What's Happening?"

By taking data from a particular population, a researcher is able to ask, "what's happening?" in regard to features of the population. They are able to assess the frequency of a disease in a defined population.

Data at One Specific Point in Time
Data-sheet with Specific Time Point

A cross-sectional study only takes data from one specific point in time. It is not longitudinal and does not follow trends of disease development or look for causative factors for disease.

(Finds) Frequency of Disease

The data collected allows the researcher to find the frequency of disease in a population at a specific time point.


Using a cross-sectional study, the prevalence of a particular disease or trait can be calculated. Typically, prevalence is exhibited as a fraction, ratio, percentage, or number of cases per 10,000 or 100,000 cases.


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