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What is a Panel Study?

By Julia Simkus, published Jan 21, 2022


Panel studies are a type of longitudinal study that involve sampling a cross-section of individuals, known as the “panel,” at specific intervals for an extended period.

These studies are used to measure people’s behaviors over time, specifically their opinions, feelings, emotions and thoughts. Researchers in panel studies collect information on the same individuals and gather data repeatedly at different points during the study.

These types of studies are typically used to analyze consumer purchasing habits, the effectiveness of an advertisement campaign, or the projected sales of a product.

However, they can also be used to research changes in household composition or stability in voting intentions over time. Panel survey data is typically collected through interviews and online surveys.

longitudinal panel research

Advantages

Efficient and cost effective

As participants willingly participate in panel surveys, these types of studies tend to have high response rates.

The process is continuous, and panels are easy to recruit and monitor, making the process quick and cost-efficient.

Diverse and extensive data

Researchers can collect data from a diverse range of subjects and collect large amounts of information from the same group of respondents.

Accessible

It is much easier to find respondents from a panel than it is to recruit and enroll responses from random individuals.

Limitations

Difficulty with attrition

Panel studies require long term time investments, so initial samples might be lost to deaths, migration, or loss of interest in the study.

Response bias

People become experienced interviewees, so questions asked earlier in the study might influence future responses.

Or, if the same questions are asked, it is likely that respondents will answer the same way they did previously because they remember the study.

Change in population over time

Because panel studies are longitudinal in nature, it is possible that the sample may become less representative of the population over time.

In addition, there could be other demographics that need to be taken into consideration but were not included during the initial study design.

Examples

  • Studying whether continued exposure to violence on television programs pauses the development of aggressive behavior patterns among elementary school and high school children (Milavsky et al., 1982).
  • Studying the effect of this attrition on the unconditional distributions of several socioeconomic variables and on the estimates of several sets of regression coefficients (also known as The Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics) (Fitzgerald, Gottschalk, & Moffitt, 1998).
  • Examining the relationship between management diversity and firm performance in the case of women in top executive jobs and on boards of directors (Smith, Smith, & Verner, 2006).
  • Analyzing changes in depression following a divorce (Menaghan & Lieberman, 1986).
  • Investigating whether ethnic media use leads to stronger ethnic identification overtime (Jeffres, 2000).
  • Examining the relationships between the experiences and perceptions of racism and the physical and mental health status of African Americans (Jackson et al., 1996).

Frequently asked questions about case control studies

1. What's the difference between a panel study and a cohort study?

Panel studies and cohort studies are both types of longitudinal research. In a cohort study, researchers monitor and observe a chosen population who share a common characteristic over an extended period of time.

They observe this population based on the shared experience of a specific event such as birth, geographic location, or historical experience.

Panel studies involve sampling a cross-section of individuals at specific intervals for an extended period of time. In panel studies, the same individuals are used throughout, unlike in cohort studies

2. Are panel studies retrospective or prospective?

Panel studies are a type of prospective study, while cohort studies can be either prospective or retrospective.

3. Are panel studies qualitative or quantitative?

Both! Like most longitudinal studies, panel studies can be either quantitative or qualitative.

About the Author

Julia Simkus is an undergraduate student at Princeton University, majoring in Psychology. She plans to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology upon graduation from Princeton in 2023. Julia has co-authored two journal articles, one titled “Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Addictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic and COVID-19-Related Restrictions," which was published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in April 2021 and the other titled “Food Addiction: Latest Insights on the Clinical Implications," to be published in Handbook of Substance Misuse and Addictions: From Biology to Public Health in early 2022.

How to reference this article:

Simkus, J. (2022, Jan 21). What is a panel study?. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/panel-study.html

Sources

Fitzgerald, J., Gottschalk, P., & Moffitt, R. A. (1998). An analysis of sample attrition in panel data: The Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics.

Herzog, A. R. (n.d.). Panel studies - advantages, challenges, data analysis - examples of panel studies for the Study of Aging. Advantages, Challenges, Data Analysis - Examples of panel studies for the study of aging - Age, Developmental, Social, Longitudinal, and Time - JRank Articles. Retrieved from https://medicine.jrank.org/pages/1285/Panel-Studies.html

Jackson, J. S., Brown, T. N., Williams, D. R., Torres, M., Sellers, S. L., & Brown, K. (1996). Racism and the physical and mental health status of African Americans: a thirteen year national panel study. Ethnicity & disease, 6(1-2), 132-147.

Jeffres, L. W. (2000). Ethnicity and ethnic media use: A panel study. Communication research, 27(4), 496-535.

Menaghan, E. G., & Lieberman, M. A. (1986). Changes in depression following divorce: A panel study. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 319-328.

Milavsky, J. R., Kessler, R., Stipp, H., & Rubens, W. S. (1982). Television, and Aggression: Results of a Panel Study.

Smith, N., Smith, V., & Verner, M. (2006). Do women in top management affect firm performance? A panel study of 2,500 Danish firms. International Journal of productivity and Performance management.

UCL Institute of Education. (n.d.). Panel studies. Learning Hub. Retrieved from https://learning.closer.ac.uk/learning-modules/introduction/types-of-longitudinal-research/panel-studies/

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