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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

SARRIA CASTRO, Madelaine  and  SILVA AYCAGUER, Luis Carlos. Tests of statistical significance in three biomedical journals: a critical review. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2004, vol.15, n.5, pp. 300-306. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892004000500003.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the use of conventional tests of statistical significance and the current trends shown by their use in three biomedical journals read in Spanish-speaking countries. METHODS: All descriptive or explanatory original articles published in the five-year period of 1996 through 2000 were reviewed in three journals: Revista Cubana de Medicina General Integral [Cuban Journal of Comprehensive General Medicine], Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública/Pan American Journal of Public Health, and Medicina Clínica [Clinical Medicine] (which is published in Spain). RESULTS: In the three journals that were reviewed various shortcomings were found in their use of hypothesis tests based on P values and in the limited use of new tools that have been suggested for use in their place: confidence intervals (CIs) and Bayesian inference. The basic findings of our research were: minimal use of CIs, as either a complement to significance tests or as the only statistical tool; mentions of a small sample size as a possible explanation for the lack of statistical significance; a predominant use of rigid alpha values; a lack of uniformity in the presentation of results; and improper reference in the research conclusions to the results of hypothesis tests. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate the lack of compliance by authors and editors with accepted standards for the use of tests of statistical significance. The findings also highlight that the stagnant use of these tests continues to be a common practice in the scientific literature.

Keywords : Pruebas de hipótesis; tamaño de la muestra; intervalos de confianza; inferencia.

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