Social Science Research Methods: Longitudinal Research Essay


Discuss about the Social Science Research Methods for Longitudinal Research.


A longitudinal research is where a researcher studies a sample of the targeted population over a long period of time so as to make inferences about their behavior. It is in this light, that understanding an individual’s retirement behavior is necessary. For instance, as one approaches the retirement age, there are those who decide to undertake interim jobs prior to their complete withdrawal from the labor market. Thus, a longitudinal research comes in handy to understand the reason behind this. A suitable longitudinal research question that would address this behavior is “Why are many employed individuals taking on interim jobs before their complete withdrawal from the labor market?”

Trochim (2006) argues that before articulating any research process, especially in social sciences, there is need to formulate and develop a feasible research design. A research design aids in developing logical reasoning that will help in addressing the research problem (Gorard, 2013). According to Vogt, Dianna and Lynne (2012), it is important for one to derive a research design that has reference to the research question at hand. In reference to individuals’ behavior of undertaking interim jobs prior to retirement, a cohort research design comes in handy in understanding the reasoning behind it. Through this design, aids in making use of the quantitative framework that is inclusive of the statistical data that makes the individuals under observation be united either by similar traits or behaviors. Additionally, in reference to the research question that seeks to understand the behavior of individuals nearing the retirement age, this design becomes feasible as it involves conducting a research over a period of time. Inclusively, it also involves using a sample of the population in different time periods thus making it a preferable one in the case of longitudinal research. Cohort design is flexible and can include the use of data either primary or secondary data thus providing deeper insights to the research question over time (Healy & Devane, 2011). A longitudinal research design can also be used to answer the research question. This is because it involves the observing the same population over time and involving different samples when making the repeated observations (Singer & Willet, 2003; Vandenberg, Ployhart, 2010).

Approaches to Social Research

There are various approaches that can be applied in social research. Among these, is the positivist approach. This approach uses the deductive approach where the researcher is required to focus on available facts (Crowther and Lancaster, 2008). A positivist approach is bound by the fact that the researcher should be independent and that the research should objective.

It is arguable that older workers who choose to remain economically active tend to face problems finding work. Researchers who apply the positivist approach, are more likely to investigate this phenomenon by observing it rather than trying to explain the phenomenon (Wilson, 2010). To do this, they have to identify their target population firstly, then derive a sample which they will observe throughout the study. Additionally, they are supposed to be independent meaning they can not to have any relationship with the sample chosen. This is to ensure that the findings in their research are objective and applicable. The researchers have to understand the problem from the general view similar to the one the world has then develop the most efficient methods to gather information. This can be through administering questionnaires in addition to observing the sample population. Knusten and Jonathan (2012) provide that positivist can conduct experiments as they can determine the causality of these issues and at the same time acquire necessary and additional information. A positivist approach by researchers is more likely to include the use of questionnaires, surveys, and available statistics (MacKinnon, 2007). This is because they are believed to offer reliable and representative data that will guide the research to conduct and analyze the identified findings.

The positivist approach is a good one as it reduces the opportunity for prejudice associated with other approaches. It gives the observer a chance to have a clear mind as they have an independent thinking. In this way, they will be able to make inferences on the reason as to the theory of older workers facing problems when searching for work. According to Monette, Sullivan, and DeJong (2010), as the positivist approach encourages a researcher to use the quantitative method of data collection and analysis, it allows them to get in-depth information that explains the stated phenomena. This makes their research to be quantifiable, objective and applicable to the general public.

Survey Research

When conducting research on behalf of National Silver Academy (NSA) on how learning experiences can be improved upon, the following survey questions can be applicable:

(1) How do you find the learning experience?

(2)What areas are you satisfied within the attaining the education?

(3)What areas do you feel can use improvement? (4)

What are some of your suggestions on improvements that you recommend to ensure the

education received is of great quality?

(5)What are other critical areas do you believe should be included in the learning process?

These survey questions are crucial in conducting the research due to the fact that they are open-ended thus allowing the respondents to give clear and detailed responses. This also makes the answers giving be valid fable and reliable. This is because the researcher will attain deeper information on the topic as the details are in plenty. To ensure the validity and reliability of the research, the survey questions are directly related to the question in hand. The NSA wants to evaluate how the learning experience of the students can be improved upon. The survey questions help the researcher to gather first-hand information from the sample and make inferences based on what he gathers. This will make the findings valid and reliable as what is collected is directly from the source. It is in this light that the questions attempt to identify what is comfortable to the students, what is not comfortable, propose ways to make their learning experience comfortable as well as identifying new additional features that would help improve their experience thereby providing conclusive findings that will answer the research question.

Using a survey, in this case, is beneficial as it provides precise results and is highly representative as the population is large. Additionally, it is convenient for gathering data and has good statistical significance. A possible drawback of using survey, in this case, can be the inflexibility of the technique as the administration right up to a collection of data cannot be changed.


When conducting a research on social science, it is important for one to ensure that they have formulated the right research question that will address the issue or problem. Consequently, the research design developed should be relative and applicable to the research question formulated. To acquire the best information as well as knowledge on a particular issue, it is advisable for a researcher to use the right approach especially a positivist one to describe and engage the issue.


Crowther, D. & Lancaster, G. (2008). Research Methods: A Concise Introduction to Research in Management and Business Consultancy. Butterworth- Heinemann.

Gorard, S. (2013). Research Design: Creating Robust Approaches for the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks. CA, Sage.

Healy, P. & Devane, D. (2011). “Methodological Considerations in Cohort Study Designs.” Nurse Researcher 18, pp. 32-36.

Knusten, T. L., & Jonathan, M. W (2012). Ways of Knowing: Competing Methodologies in Social and Political Research. 2nd ed. New York: Palgrave.

MacKinnon, D. P. (2007). Introduction to Statistical Mediation Analysis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Monette, D. R., Sullivan, J. T., & DeJong, C. R (2010). Applied Social Research: A Tool For The Human Services, 8th Ed. Brooks/Cole.

Neuman, W. L. (2014). Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 7th Edition. Pearson Education Limited: UK.

Singer, J. D., & Willett, J. B. (2003). Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press

Trochim, W. M. K. (2006). Research Knowledge Base.

Wilson, J. (2010). Essentials of Business Research: A Guide to Doing Your Research Project. Sage Publications.

Vandenberg, J. R, & Ployhart, E. R. (2010). “Longitudinal Research: The Theory, Design and Analysis of Change.” Journal of Management 36 pp. 94-120.

Vogt, W. P., Dianna, C.G, & Lynne, M.H. (2012). When to Use What Research Design. New York: Guilford.

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