What is a p-value?
A p-value, or probability value, is a number describing how likely it is that your data would have occurred under the null hypothesis of your statistical test.
A p-value, or probability value, is a number describing how likely it is that your data would have occurred under the null hypothesis of your statistical test.
The standard deviation is the average amount of variability in your data set. It tells you, on average, how far each score lies from the mean.
In normal distributions, a high standard deviation means that values are generally far from the mean, while a low standard deviation indicates that values are clustered close to the mean.
To find the median, first order your data. Then calculate the middle position based on n, the number of values in your data set.
A data set can often have no mode, one mode or more than one mode – it all depends on how many different values repeat most frequently.
Your data can be:
To find the mode:
Then you simply need to identify the most frequently occurring value.
The interquartile range is the best measure of variability for skewed distributions or data sets with outliers. Because it’s based on values that come from the middle half of the distribution, it’s unlikely to be influenced by outliers.
The two most common methods for calculating interquartile range are the exclusive and inclusive methods.
The exclusive method excludes the median when identifying Q1 and Q3, while the inclusive method includes the median as a value in the data set in identifying the quartiles.
For each of these methods, you’ll need different procedures for finding the median, Q1 and Q3 depending on whether your sample size is even- or odd-numbered. The exclusive method works best for even-numbered sample sizes, while the inclusive method is often used with odd-numbered sample sizes.
While the range gives you the spread of the whole data set, the interquartile range gives you the spread of the middle half of a data set.
Homoscedasticity, or homogeneity of variances, is an assumption of equal or similar variances in different groups being compared.
This is an important assumption of parametric statistical tests because they are sensitive to any dissimilarities. Uneven variances in samples result in biased and skewed test results.
Statistical tests such as variance tests or the analysis of variance (ANOVA) use sample variance to assess group differences of populations. They use the variances of the samples to assess whether the populations they come from significantly differ from each other.
Variance is the average squared deviations from the mean, while standard deviation is the square root of this number. Both measures reflect variability in a distribution, but their units differ:
Although the units of variance are harder to intuitively understand, variance is important in statistical tests.
The empirical rule, or the 68-95-99.7 rule, tells you where most of the values lie in a normal distribution:
The empirical rule is a quick way to get an overview of your data and check for any outliers or extreme values that don’t follow this pattern.
In a normal distribution, data is symmetrically distributed with no skew. Most values cluster around a central region, with values tapering off as they go further away from the center.
The measures of central tendency (mean, mode and median) are exactly the same in a normal distribution.
The median is the most informative measure of central tendency for skewed distributions or distributions with outliers. For example, the median is often used as a measure of central tendency for income distributions, which are generally highly skewed.
Because the median only uses one or two values, it’s unaffected by extreme outliers or non-symmetric distributions of scores. In contrast, the mean and mode can vary in skewed distributions.
No. Because the range formula subtracts the lowest number from the highest number, the range is always zero or a positive number.
In statistics, the range is the spread of your data from the lowest to the highest value in the distribution. It is the simplest measure of variability.
While central tendency tells you where most of your data points lie, variability summarizes how far apart your points from each other.
Data sets can have the same central tendency but different levels of variability or vice versa. Together, they give you a complete picture of your data.
Variability is most commonly measured with the following descriptive statistics:
Variability tells you how far apart points lie from each other and from the center of a distribution or a data set.
Variability is also referred to as spread, scatter or dispersion.
While interval and ratio data can both be categorized, ranked, and have equal spacing between adjacent values, only ratio scales have a true zero.
For example, temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit is at an interval scale because zero is not the lowest possible temperature. In the Kelvin scale, a ratio scale, zero represents a total lack of thermal energy.
A critical value is the value of the test statistic which defines the upper and lower bounds of a confidence interval, or which defines the threshold of statistical significance in a statistical test. It describes how far from the mean of the distribution you have to go to cover a certain amount of the total variation in the data (i.e. 90%, 95%, 99%).
If you are constructing a 95% confidence interval and are using a threshold of statistical significance of p = 0.05, then your critical value will be identical in both cases.
The t-distribution gives more probability to observations in the tails of the distribution than the standard normal distribution (a.k.a. the z-distribution).
In this way, the t-distribution is more conservative than the standard normal distribution: to reach the same level of confidence or statistical significance, you will need to include a wider range of the data.
A t-score (a.k.a. a t-value) is equivalent to the number of standard deviations away from the mean of the t-distribution.
The t-score is the test statistic used in t-tests and regression tests. It can also be used to describe how far from the mean an observation is when the data follow a t-distribution.
The t-distribution is a way of describing a set of observations where most observations fall close to the mean, and the rest of the observations make up the tails on either side. It is a type of normal distribution used for smaller sample sizes, where the variance in the data is unknown.
The t-distribution forms a bell curve when plotted on a graph. It can be described mathematically using the mean and the standard deviation.
In statistics, a Type I error means rejecting the null hypothesis when it’s actually true, while a Type II error means failing to reject the null hypothesis when it’s actually false.
No, the steepness or slope of the line isn’t related to the correlation coefficient value. The correlation coefficient only tells you how closely your data fit on a line, so two datasets with the same correlation coefficient can have very different slopes.
To find the slope of the line, you’ll need to perform a regression analysis.
Correlation coefficients always range between -1 and 1.
The sign of the coefficient tells you the direction of the relationship: a positive value means the variables change together in the same direction, while a negative value means they change together in opposite directions.
The absolute value of a number is equal to the number without its sign. The absolute value of a correlation coefficient tells you the magnitude of the correlation: the greater the absolute value, the stronger the correlation.
These are the assumptions your data must meet if you want to use Pearson’s r:
A correlation coefficient is a single number that describes the strength and direction of the relationship between your variables.
Different types of correlation coefficients might be appropriate for your data based on their levels of measurement and distributions. The Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (Pearson’s r) is commonly used to assess a linear relationship between two quantitative variables.
There are various ways to improve power:
A power analysis is a calculation that helps you determine a minimum sample size for your study. It’s made up of four main components. If you know or have estimates for any three of these, you can calculate the fourth component.
In statistical hypothesis testing, the null hypothesis of a test always predicts no effect or no relationship between variables, while the alternative hypothesis states your research prediction of an effect or relationship.
Statistical analysis is the main method for analyzing quantitative research data. It uses probabilities and models to test predictions about a population from sample data.
The risk of making a Type II error is inversely related to the statistical power of a test. Power is the extent to which a test can correctly detect a real effect when there is one.
To (indirectly) reduce the risk of a Type II error, you can increase the sample size or the significance level to increase statistical power.
The risk of making a Type I error is the significance level (or alpha) that you choose. That’s a value that you set at the beginning of your study to assess the statistical probability of obtaining your results (p value).
The significance level is usually set at 0.05 or 5%. This means that your results only have a 5% chance of occurring, or less, if the null hypothesis is actually true.
To reduce the Type I error probability, you can set a lower significance level.
In statistics, ordinal and nominal variables are both considered categorical variables.
Even though ordinal data can sometimes be numerical, not all mathematical operations can be performed on them.
In statistics, power refers to the likelihood of a hypothesis test detecting a true effect if there is one. A statistically powerful test is more likely to reject a false negative (a Type II error).
If you don’t ensure enough power in your study, you may not be able to detect a statistically significant result even when it has practical significance. Your study might not have the ability to answer your research question.
While statistical significance shows that an effect exists in a study, practical significance shows that the effect is large enough to be meaningful in the real world.
Statistical significance is denoted by p-values whereas practical significance is represented by effect sizes.
There are dozens of measures of effect sizes. The most common effect sizes are Cohen’s d and Pearson’s r. Cohen’s d measures the size of the difference between two groups while Pearson’s r measures the strength of the relationship between two variables.
Effect size tells you how meaningful the relationship between variables or the difference between groups is.
A large effect size means that a research finding has practical significance, while a small effect size indicates limited practical applications.
Using descriptive and inferential statistics, you can make two types of estimates about the population: point estimates and interval estimates.
Both types of estimates are important for gathering a clear idea of where a parameter is likely to lie.
Standard error and standard deviation are both measures of variability. The standard deviation reflects variability within a sample, while the standard error estimates the variability across samples of a population.
The standard error of the mean, or simply standard error, indicates how different the population mean is likely to be from a sample mean. It tells you how much the sample mean would vary if you were to repeat a study using new samples from within a single population.
To figure out whether a given number is a parameter or a statistic, ask yourself the following:
If the answer is yes to both questions, the number is likely to be a parameter. For small populations, data can be collected from the whole population and summarized in parameters.
If the answer is no to either of the questions, then the number is more likely to be a statistic.
The arithmetic mean is the most commonly used mean. It’s often simply called the mean or the average. But there are some other types of means you can calculate depending on your research purposes:
You can find the mean, or average, of a data set in two simple steps:
This method is the same whether you are dealing with sample or population data or positive or negative numbers.
Multiple linear regression is a regression model that estimates the relationship between a quantitative dependent variable and two or more independent variables using a straight line.
The 3 main types of descriptive statistics concern the frequency distribution, central tendency, and variability of a dataset.
Descriptive statistics summarize the characteristics of a data set. Inferential statistics allow you to test a hypothesis or assess whether your data is generalizable to the broader population.
In statistics, model selection is a process researchers use to compare the relative value of different statistical models and determine which one is the best fit for the observed data.
The Akaike information criterion is one of the most common methods of model selection. AIC weights the ability of the model to predict the observed data against the number of parameters the model requires to reach that level of precision.
AIC model selection can help researchers find a model that explains the observed variation in their data while avoiding overfitting.
In statistics, a model is the collection of one or more independent variables and their predicted interactions that researchers use to try to explain variation in their dependent variable.
You can test a model using a statistical test. To compare how well different models fit your data, you can use Akaike’s information criterion for model selection.
The Akaike information criterion is calculated from the maximum log-likelihood of the model and the number of parameters (K) used to reach that likelihood. The AIC function is 2K – 2(log-likelihood).
Lower AIC values indicate a better-fit model, and a model with a delta-AIC (the difference between the two AIC values being compared) of more than -2 is considered significantly better than the model it is being compared to.
The Akaike information criterion is a mathematical test used to evaluate how well a model fits the data it is meant to describe. It penalizes models which use more independent variables (parameters) as a way to avoid over-fitting.
AIC is most often used to compare the relative goodness-of-fit among different models under consideration and to then choose the model that best fits the data.
A factorial ANOVA is any ANOVA that uses more than one categorical independent variable. A two-way ANOVA is a type of factorial ANOVA.
Some examples of factorial ANOVAs include:
In ANOVA, the null hypothesis is that there is no difference among group means. If any group differs significantly from the overall group mean, then the ANOVA will report a statistically significant result.
Significant differences among group means are calculated using the F statistic, which is the ratio of the mean sum of squares (the variance explained by the independent variable) to the mean square error (the variance left over).
If the F statistic is higher than the critical value (the value of F that corresponds with your alpha value, usually 0.05), then the difference among groups is deemed statistically significant.
The only difference between one-way and two-way ANOVA is the number of independent variables. A one-way ANOVA has one independent variable, while a two-way ANOVA has two.
All ANOVAs are designed to test for differences among three or more groups. If you are only testing for a difference between two groups, use a t-test instead.
The formula for the test statistic depends on the statistical test being used.
Generally, the test statistic is calculated as the pattern in your data (i.e. the correlation between variables or difference between groups) divided by the variance in the data (i.e. the standard deviation).
Linear regression most often uses mean-square error (MSE) to calculate the error of the model. MSE is calculated by:
Linear regression fits a line to the data by finding the regression coefficient that results in the smallest MSE.
Simple linear regression is a regression model that estimates the relationship between one independent variable and one dependent variable using a straight line. Both variables should be quantitative.
For example, the relationship between temperature and the expansion of mercury in a thermometer can be modeled using a straight line: as temperature increases, the mercury expands. This linear relationship is so certain that we can use mercury thermometers to measure temperature.
A regression model is a statistical model that estimates the relationship between one dependent variable and one or more independent variables using a line (or a plane in the case of two or more independent variables).
A regression model can be used when the dependent variable is quantitative, except in the case of logistic regression, where the dependent variable is binary.
A t-test should not be used to measure differences among more than two groups, because the error structure for a t-test will underestimate the actual error when many groups are being compared.
If you want to compare the means of several groups at once, it’s best to use another statistical test such as ANOVA or a post-hoc test.
A one-sample t-test is used to compare a single population to a standard value (for example, to determine whether the average lifespan of a specific town is different from the country average).
A paired t-test is used to compare a single population before and after some experimental intervention or at two different points in time (for example, measuring student performance on a test before and after being taught the material).
A t-test measures the difference in group means divided by the pooled standard error of the two group means.
In this way, it calculates a number (the t-value) illustrating the magnitude of the difference between the two group means being compared, and estimates the likelihood that this difference exists purely by chance (p-value).
Your choice of t-test depends on whether you are studying one group or two groups, and whether you care about the direction of the difference in group means.
If you are studying one group, use a paired t-test to compare the group mean over time or after an intervention, or use a one-sample t-test to compare the group mean to a standard value. If you are studying two groups, use a two-sample t-test.
If you want to know only whether a difference exists, use a two-tailed test. If you want to know if one group mean is greater or less than the other, use a left-tailed or right-tailed one-tailed test.
A t-test is a statistical test that compares the means of two samples. It is used in hypothesis testing, with a null hypothesis that the difference in group means is zero and an alternate hypothesis that the difference in group means is different from zero.
Statistical significance is a term used by researchers to state that it is unlikely their observations could have occurred under the null hypothesis of a statistical test. Significance is usually denoted by a p-value, or probability value.
Statistical significance is arbitrary – it depends on the threshold, or alpha value, chosen by the researcher. The most common threshold is p < 0.05, which means that the data is likely to occur less than 5% of the time under the null hypothesis.
When the p-value falls below the chosen alpha value, then we say the result of the test is statistically significant.
A test statistic is a number calculated by a statistical test. It describes how far your observed data is from the null hypothesis of no relationship between variables or no difference among sample groups.
The test statistic tells you how different two or more groups are from the overall population mean, or how different a linear slope is from the slope predicted by a null hypothesis. Different test statistics are used in different statistical tests.
The measures of central tendency you can use depends on the level of measurement of your data.
Ordinal data has two characteristics:
However, unlike with interval data, the distances between the categories are uneven or unknown.
Nominal and ordinal are two of the four levels of measurement. Nominal level data can only be classified, while ordinal level data can be classified and ordered.
If your confidence interval for a difference between groups includes zero, that means that if you run your experiment again you have a good chance of finding no difference between groups.
If your confidence interval for a correlation or regression includes zero, that means that if you run your experiment again there is a good chance of finding no correlation in your data.
In both of these cases, you will also find a high p-value when you run your statistical test, meaning that your results could have occurred under the null hypothesis of no relationship between variables or no difference between groups.
If you want to calculate a confidence interval around the mean of data that is not normally distributed, you have two choices:
The standard normal distribution, also called the z-distribution, is a special normal distribution where the mean is 0 and the standard deviation is 1.
Any normal distribution can be converted into the standard normal distribution by turning the individual values into z-scores. In a z-distribution, z-scores tell you how many standard deviations away from the mean each value lies.
The z-score and t-score (aka z-value and t-value) show how many standard deviations away from the mean of the distribution you are, assuming your data follow a z-distribution or a t-distribution.
These scores are used in statistical tests to show how far from the mean of the predicted distribution your statistical estimate is. If your test produces a z-score of 2.5, this means that your estimate is 2.5 standard deviations from the predicted mean.
The predicted mean and distribution of your estimate are generated by the null hypothesis of the statistical test you are using. The more standard deviations away from the predicted mean your estimate is, the less likely it is that the estimate could have occurred under the null hypothesis.
To calculate the confidence interval, you need to know:
Then you can plug these components into the confidence interval formula that corresponds to your data. The formula depends on the type of estimate (e.g. a mean or a proportion) and on the distribution of your data.
The confidence level is the percentage of times you expect to get close to the same estimate if you run your experiment again or resample the population in the same way.
The confidence interval is the actual upper and lower bounds of the estimate you expect to find at a given level of confidence.
For example, if you are estimating a 95% confidence interval around the mean proportion of female babies born every year based on a random sample of babies, you might find an upper bound of 0.56 and a lower bound of 0.48. These are the upper and lower bounds of the confidence interval. The confidence level is 95%.
This means that 95% of the time, you can expect your estimate to fall between 0.56 and 0.48.
Nominal data is data that can be labelled or classified into mutually exclusive categories within a variable. These categories cannot be ordered in a meaningful way.
For example, for the nominal variable of preferred mode of transportation, you may have the categories of car, bus, train, tram or bicycle.
The mean is the most frequently used measure of central tendency because it uses all values in the data set to give you an average.
For data from skewed distributions, the median is better than the mean because it isn’t influenced by extremely large values.
The mode is the only measure you can use for nominal or categorical data that can’t be ordered.
Statistical tests commonly assume that:
If your data does not meet these assumptions you might still be able to use a nonparametric statistical test, which have fewer requirements but also make weaker inferences.
Measures of central tendency help you find the middle, or the average, of a data set.
The 3 most common measures of central tendency are the mean, median and mode.
Some variables have fixed levels. For example, gender and ethnicity are always nominal level data because they cannot be ranked.
However, for other variables, you can choose the level of measurement. For example, income is a variable that can be recorded on an ordinal or a ratio scale:
If you have a choice, the ratio level is always preferable because you can analyze data in more ways. The higher the level of measurement, the more precise your data is.
The level at which you measure a variable determines how you can analyze your data.
Depending on the level of measurement, you can perform different descriptive statistics to get an overall summary of your data and inferential statistics to see if your results support or refute your hypothesis.
Levels of measurement tell you how precisely variables are recorded. There are 4 levels of measurement, which can be ranked from low to high:
No. The p-value only tells you how likely the data you have observed is to have occurred under the null hypothesis.
If the p-value is below your threshold of significance (typically p < 0.05), then you can reject the null hypothesis, but this does not necessarily mean that your alternative hypothesis is true.
The alpha value, or the threshold for statistical significance, is arbitrary – which value you use depends on your field of study.
In most cases, researchers use an alpha of 0.05, which means that there is a less than 5% chance that the data being tested could have occurred under the null hypothesis.
P-values are usually automatically calculated by the program you use to perform your statistical test. They can also be estimated using p-value tables for the relevant test statistic.
P-values are calculated from the null distribution of the test statistic. They tell you how often a test statistic is expected to occur under the null hypothesis of the statistical test, based on where it falls in the null distribution.
If the test statistic is far from the mean of the null distribution, then the p-value will be small, showing that the test statistic is not likely to have occurred under the null hypothesis.
The test statistic you use will be determined by the statistical test.
You can choose the right statistical test by looking at what type of data you have collected and what type of relationship you want to test.
The test statistic will change based on the number of observations in your data, how variable your observations are, and how strong the underlying patterns in the data are.
For example, if one data set has higher variability while another has lower variability, the first data set will produce a test statistic closer to the null hypothesis, even if the true correlation between two variables is the same in either data set.
Want to contact us directly? No problem. We are always here for you.
Our team helps students graduate by offering:
Scribbr specializes in editing study-related documents. We proofread:
The Scribbr Plagiarism Checker is powered by elements of Turnitin’s Similarity Checker, namely the plagiarism detection software and the Internet Archive and Premium Scholarly Publications content databases.
The Scribbr Citation Generator currently supports the following citation styles, and we’re working hard on supporting more styles in the future.
Scribbr uses industry-standard citation styles from the Citation Styles Language project.