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Clinical Study Types - for Librarians

Cross-Sectional Studies: Definitions

PubMed's MeSH term: Cross-sectional studies: Studies in which the presence or absence of disease or other health-related variables are determined in each member of the study population or in a representative sample at one particular time. This contrasts with LONGITUDINAL STUDIES which are followed over a period of time.

Surveys and questionnaires are often considered cross-sectional studies.

Epidemiology of Study Design: Cross-sectional studies are observational in nature and give a snapshot of the characteristics of study subjects in a single point of time. Unlike cohort studies, cross-sectional studies do not have a follow-up period and therefore are relatively simple to conduct. As the exposure status/outcome of interest information is collected in a single moment in time, often by surveys, cross-sectional study design cannot provide a cause-effect relationship and is the weakest of the observational designs. This study design is generally used to assess the prevalence of a disease in a population.


Example in an elementary school classroom:  If we asked "How many of you brought lunch today, and how many of you plan on buying lunch today?" that is a cross-sectional study.

Examples in the literature:

Where This MeSH Term Can Be Found in the MeSH 'Tree'

The MeSH term is found under Epidemiological Studies: 

Consider Asking the Researcher

As surveys are a type of cross-sectional research, you might want to ask the researcher if they would like you to search on surveys OR questionnaires (and the associated MeSH terms and other keywords)

Maps and Directions