STATISTICAL TESTS FOR
SIGNIFICANCE
What test do I need?
Other parts of this site explain how to do the common
statistical tests. Here is a guide to choosing the right
test for your purposes. When you have found it, click on
"more information?" to confirm
that the test is suitable. If you know it is suitable,
click on "go for it!"
Important: Your
data might not be in a suitable form (e.g. percentages,
proportions) for the test you need. You can overcome this
by using a simple transformation. Always check
this  click HERE.
1. Student's ttest
Use this test for comparing the means of
two samples (but see test 2 below), even
if they have different numbers of replicates.
For example, you might want to compare the growth
(biomass, etc.) of two populations of bacteria or
plants, the yield of a crop with or without
fertiliser treatment, the optical density of samples
taken from each of two types of solution, etc. This
test is used for "measurement data" that
are continuously variable (with no fixed limits), not
for counts of 1, 2, 3 etc. You would need to transform percentages
and proportions because these have fixed limits
(0100, or 01).
More information?
Go for it!
2.
Pairedsamples test
Use this test like the ttest
but in special circumstances  when you can arrange
the two sets of replicate data in pairs. For
example: (1) in a crop trial, use the
"plus" and "minus" nitrogen crops
on one farm as a pair, the "plus" and
"minus" nitrogen crops on a second farm as
a pair, and so on; (2) in a drug trial where a drug
treatment is compared with a placebo (no treatment),
one pair might be 20yearold Caucasian males,
another pair might be 30year old Asian females, and
so on.
More information?
Go for it!
3.
Analysis of variance for comparing the means of three or
more samples
Use this test if you want to compare
several treatments. For example, the growth
of one bacterium at different temperatures, the
effects of several drugs or antibiotics, the sizes of
several types of plant (or animals' teeth, etc.). You
can also compare two things simultaneously  for
example, the growth of 3 bacteria at different
temperatures, and so on. Like the ttest,
this test is used for "measurement data"
that are continuously variable (with no fixed
limits), not for counts of 1, 2, 3 etc. You would
need to transform
percentages and proportions because these have
fixed limits (0100, or 01).
More information?
You need this, because there are different
forms of this test.
4.
Chisquared test for categories of data
Use this test to compare counts (numbers)
of things that fall into different categories.
For example, the numbers of blueeyed and browneyed
people in a class, or the numbers of progeny (AA, Aa,
aa) from a genetic crossing experiment. You can also use
the test for combinations of factors (e.g.
the incidence of blue/brown eyes in people with
light/dark hair, or the numbers of oak and birch
trees with or without a particular type of toadstool
beneath them on different soil types, etc.).
More information?
Go for it!
5.
Poisson distribution for count data
Use this test for putting confidence
limits on the mean of counts of random events,
so that different count means can be compared
for statistical difference. For example, numbers of
bacteria counted in the different squares of a
counting chamber (haemocytometer) should follow a
random distribution, unless the bacteria attract one
another (in which case the numbers in some squares
should be abnormally high, and abnormally low in
other squares) or repel one another (in which case
the counts should be abnormally similar in all
squares). Very few things in nature are randomly
distributed, but testing the recorded data against
the expectation of the Poisson distribution would
show this. By using the Poisson distribution you have
a powerful test for analysing whether objects/ events
are randomly distributed in space and time (or,
conversely, whether the objects/ events are
clustered).
More information?
Go
for it!
6.
Correlation coefficient and regression analysis for curve
fitting
These procedures are used for looking at
the relationship between different factors,
and (if appropriate) for graphing the results
in statistically meaningful ways. For
example, as the temperature (or pH, etc.) increases,
does growth rate increase or decrease? As the dose
rate of a drug is increased does the response rate of
patients rise? As altitude is increased does the
number of butterflies (or oak trees) increase or
decrease? Sometimes the relationship is
linear, sometimes logarithmic, sometimes sigmoidal,
etc. You can test all these possibilities and, in
drug or toxicity trials (for example) calculate the
LD_{50} or ED_{50} (lethal dose, or
estimated dose, for a 50% response rate).
More
information?
Go for
it!
==========================================
More information
Student's ttest
Use this test for comparing the means of
two populations that you have sampled (but see test 2
below). For example, you might want to
compare the growth (biomass, etc.) of two bacteria or
plants, the yield of a crop with or without added
nitrogen, the optical density of samples taken from
each of two types of solution, etc.
What you will need for this test:
a minimum of 2 or 3 replicates of each sample or
treatment, but ideally at least 5 replicates. For
example, the yield measured for 5 fields of a crop
fertilised with nitrogen and for 5 unfertilised
fields, the optical density of 5 tubes of each
solution, the measurement of 5 plants of each type,
etc. Large sample sizes (10 or more) are always
better than small sample sizes, but it is easier to
measure the height of 10 or 20 (or 50) plants than it
is to set up10 or 20 largescale fermenters!
You don't need the same number of
replicates of each treatment  for example, you can
compare 3 tubes of one solution with 4 tubes of
another. You could also use this test to compare
several replicates of one treatment with a single
value for another treatment, but it would not be very
sensitive.
Go for it!
Back to "What
test do I need?"
Pairedsamples
test
Use this test like the ttest
but in special circumstances  when you can arrange
the two sets of replicate data in pairs. For
example: (1) in a crop trial, use the
"plus" and "minus" nitrogen crops
on one farm as a pair, the "plus" and
"minus" nitrogen crops on a second farm as
a pair, and so on; (2) in a drug trial where a drug
treatment is compared with a placebo (no treatment),
one pair might be 20yearold males, another pair
might be 30year old females, and so on.
Why do we use the paired samples test?
Because farms or people or many other things are
inherently variable, but by pairing the treatments we
can remove much of this random variability from the
test of "nitrogen versus no nitrogen" or
"drug treatment versus no treatment", etc.
What are the requirements for this test?
The main requirement is that the experiment is
PLANNED ahead of time. Then you can use the paired
samples test for many purposes  for example, two
treatments compared on one day, then the same two
treatments compared on the next day, and so on.
In general, you will need more replicates
than for a ttest
(say, a minimum of 5 for each treatment),
and you will need the same number of
replicates for each treatment.
But you must have a good reason
to pair treatments  you should not do it
arbitrarily.
Go for
it!
Back to "What
test do I need?"
Analysis of
variance for comparing the means of
three or more samples.
Use this test if you want to compare
several treatments. For example, the growth
of one bacterium at different temperatures, the
effects of several drugs or antibiotics, the sizes of
several plants (or animals' teeth, etc.). You can
also compare two things simultaneously  for example,
the growth of 3 or 4 strains of bacteria at different
temperatures, and so on.
The simplest form of this test is oneway
ANOVA (ANalysis Of VAriance). Use
this to compare several separate treatments
(e.g. effects of 3 or more temperatures, antibiotic
levels, crop treatments, etc.). You will need
at least 2 replicates of each treatment.
Oneway ANOVA tells you if there are differences
between the treatments as a whole. But it can
also be used, with caution, like a multiple ttest,
to tell you which of the treatments differ from each
other.
Go for
oneway ANOVA?
Back
to "What test do I need?"
Another form of this test is twoway ANOVA.
Use this if you want to compare combinations
of treatments. For example, to compare the
growth of an organism on several different substrates
at several different temperatures. Or the effects of
two (or more) drugs singly and in combination. Or
responses of crops to fertiliser treatment on
different farms or soil types. You can get
useful information even if you have one of each
combination of treatments, but you get much
more information if you have 2 (or more) replicates
of each combination of treatments. Then the test can
tell you if you have significant interaction
 for example, if changing the temperature changes
the way that an organism responds to a change of pH,
etc.
Go
for twoway ANOVA?
Back
to "What test do I need?"
Chisquared test for
categories of data
Use this test to compare counts (numbers)
of things that fall into different categories.
For example, to compare the numbers of blueeyed and
browneyed people in a class, or the numbers of
progeny (AA, Aa, aa) from a genetic crossing
experiment. You can also use the test for
looking at combinations of factors (e.g. the
incidence of blue/brown eyes in people with
light/dark hair, or the numbers of toadstools beneath
oak and birch trees on different soil types, etc.).
For this test you compare the actual
counts (in the different categories) with
an "expected" set of counts.
Sometimes the expectation is obvious  for example,
that half of the progeny from a cross between parents
Aa and aa will have the Aa genotype and half will
have aa. You have to construct an hypothesis (termed
the null hypothesis) by using logical arguments.
What are the requirements for this test?
Almost any sort of "count" data can be
analysed by chisquared, but you have to use
"real" numbers, not proportions or
percentages.
Go for it!
Back
to "What test do I need?"
Poisson
distribution for count data
The main requirement for this test is that the
mean count (of bacterial colonies, buttercups, etc.)
need to be relatively high (say 30 or more) before
they can be expected to conform to a Poisson
distribution. If you have such a high count, then you
can test whether or not your results actually do
conform to the Poisson distribution.
Go
for it!
Back
to "What test do I need?"
Correlation
coefficient and regression analysis
for curve fitting
These procedures are used for looking at
the relationship between different factors,
and (if appropriate) for graphing the results
in statistically meaningful ways. For
example, as the temperature (or pH, etc.) increases,
does growth rate increase or decrease? As the dose
rate of a drug is increased does the response rate of
patients rise? As altitude is increased does the
number of butterflies (or oak trees) increase or
decrease? Sometimes the relationship is
linear, sometimes logarithmic, sometimes sigmoidal,
etc. You can test all these possibilities and, in
drug or toxicity trials (for example) calculate the
LD_{50} or ED_{50} (lethal dose, or
estimated dose, for a 50% response rate).
There is a 3stage procedure:
 Plot your results on graph paper, and ask
yourself: does the relationship look (or is
expected to be) linear, or is it logarithmic,
or sigmoid (Sshaped)? You might need to
transform the data (see transforming
data) if they are not linear.
 Calculate the correlation coefficient, which
tells you whether the data fit a straight
line relationship (and how close the fit is,
in statistical terms).
 If the correlation coefficient is
significant, and other conditions are met,
proceed to regression analysis, which gives
the equation for the line of best fit, then
draw this line on your graph.
Go
for it!
Back
to "What test do I need?"
Transformation of data
1. Proportions and percentages:
convert to arcsin values
Certain mathematical assumptions underly all the
statistical tests on this site. The most important
assumption is that the data are normally distributed and
are free to vary widely about the mean  there are no
imposed limits. Clearly this is not true of percentages,
which cannot be less than 0 nor more than 100. If you
have data that are close to these limits, then you need
to transform the original data before you analyse them.
One simple way of doing this is to convert the
percentages to arcsin values and then analyse
these arcsin values. The arcsin transformation moves very
low or very high values towards the centre, giving them
more theoretical freedom to vary.
[You convert percentages (x) to arcsin values
( q ), where q is an angle for which sin
q is Ö x/100 ]
On a calculator:
to get the arcsin value for a percentage
(e.g. 50%), divide this by 100 ( = 0.5), take the
square root (= 0.7071), then press "sin1"
to get the arcsin value (= 45). [NB: if your
calculator gives the result as 0.785 then this is the
angle in radians rather than degrees]
to get the arcsin value for a proportion
(e.g. 0.4), take the square root (= 0.6325), then
press "sin1" to get the arcsin value (=
39.23).
On an "Excel" spreadsheet:
convert percentages to arcsin values (and back
again) by entering a formula into the spreadsheet  Go for
it!
2. Logarithmic transformation
Use this for two purposes:
 When fitting a curve to logarithmic data
(exponential growth of cells, etc). Take the
logarithm of each "growth" value and
plot this against time (real values). You can use
either natural logarithms or logs to base 10. The
data should now show a straightline relationship
and can be analysed using correlation coefficient
and regression.
 In Analysis of Variance, when
comparing means that differ widely. The reason
for this is that an analysis of variance is based
on the assumption that the variance is the same
across all the data. But usually this will not be
true if some means are very small and others are
very large  the individual data points for the
large mean could vary widely. [For example, a
mean of 500 could be made up from 3 values of
100, 400 and 1000, whereas a mean of 50 could not
possibly include such wide variation] This
problem is overcome by converting the original
data to logarithms, squeezing all the data points
closer together. Contrary to expectations, this
would show significant differences between small
and large means that would not
be seen otherwise.
3. Converting Percentages to
Probits
Some types of data show a sigmoid (Sshaped)
relationship. A classic case is in dosageresponse
curves, for testing antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, etc. To
analyse these relationships the "percentage of
patients/cells responding to a treatment" can be
converted to a "probit" value, and the dosage
is converted to a logarithm. This procedure converts an
Sshaped curve into a straightline relationship, which
can be analysed by correlation coefficient and regression
analysis in the normal way. From the straightline
equation, we can calculate the LD_{50}, ED_{50},
and so on.
The method for doing this in "Excel" is
shown below.
Converting between percentage, arcsin and probits in ‘Excel’.
The table below shows part of a page from an
‘Excel’ worksheet. Columns are headed AF and
rows are labelled 121, so each cell in the table can be
identified (e.g. B2 or F11). Representative % values were
inserted in cells B2B21.
You will now see how to convert these % values into
probits or arcsin values, and back again. If you do the
relevant conversion in your own spreadsheet, you can then
use the probit or arcsin values instead of % values for
the statistical tests.
In cell C2 of the spreadsheet. a formula was entered
to convert Percentage to Probit values.
The formula (without spaces) is: =NORMINV(B2/100,5,1)
This formula is not seen. As soon as we move out of
cell C2 it automatically gives the probit value (in C2)
for the percentage in cell B2, seen in the
"printout" below. Copying and then pasting this
formula into every other cell of column C produces a
corresponding probit value (e.g. cell C3 contains the
probit of the % in cell B3).
Next, a formula was entered in cell D2 to convert Probit
to Percentage, and the above procedure was repeated
for all cells in column D.
The formula is: =NORMDIST(C2,5,1,TRUE)*100
The formula entered in cell E2 converts Percentage
to Arcsin
The formula is: =ASIN(SQRT(A2/100))*180/PI()
The formula in cell F2 converts Arcsin to
Percentage
The formula is: =SIN(E2/180*PI())^2*100
A

B

C

D

E

F

1

Percent 
% to Probit 
Probit to % 
% to arcsin 
arcsin to % 
2

0.1 
1.91 
0.1 
1.812 
0.1 
3

0.5 
2.424 
0.5 
4.055 
0.5 
4

1 
2.674 
1 
5.739 
1 
5

2 
2.946 
2 
8.13 
2 
6

3 
3.119 
3 
9.974 
3 
7

4 
3.249 
4 
11.54 
4 
8

5 
3.355 
5 
12.92 
5 
9

6 
3.445 
6 
14.18 
6 
10

7 
3.524 
7 
15.34 
7 
11

8 
3.595 
8 
16.43 
8 
12

9 
3.659 
9 
17.46 
9 
13

10 
3.718 
10 
18.43 
10 
14

50 
5 
50 
45 
50 
15

96 
6.751 
96 
78.46 
96 
16

97 
6.881 
97 
80.03 
97 
17

98 
7.054 
98 
81.87 
98 
18

99.5 
7.576 
99.5 
85.95 
99.5 
19

99.99 
8.719 
99.99 
89.43 
99.99 
20

99.999 
9.265 
99.999 
89.82 
99.999 
21

99.9999 
9.768 
100 
89.94 
99.9999 
