Cross-sectional studies in prescribing research

Jill K. Jesson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A cross-sectional study aims to describe the overall picture of a phenomenon, a situational problem, an attitude or an issue, by asking a cross-section of a given population at one specified moment in time. This paper describes the key features of the cross-sectional survey method. It begins by highlighting the main principles of the method, then discusses stages in the research process, drawing on two surveys of primary care pharmacists to illustrate some salient points about planning, sampling frames, definition and conceptual issues, research instrument design and response rates. Four constraints in prescribing studies were noted. First the newness of the subject meant a low basis of existing knowledge to design a questionnaire. Second, there was no public existing database for the sampling frame, so a pragmatic sampling exercise was used. Third, the definition of a Primary Care Pharmacist (PCP) [in full] and respondents recognition of that name and identification with the new role limited the response. Fourth, a growing problem for all surveys, but particularly with pharmacists and general practitioners (GP) [in full] is the growing danger of survey fatigue, which has a negative impact on response levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-403
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001


  • pharmacists
  • prescribing advice
  • survey


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