5 things journalists need to know about statistical significance


It’s easy to misunderstand and misuse one of the most common — and important — terms in academic research: statistical significance. We created this tip sheet to help journalists avoid some of the most common errors, which even trained researchers make sometimes.

When scholars analyze data, they look for patterns and relationships between and among the variables they’re studying. For example, they might look at data on playground accidents to figure out whether children with certain characteristics are more likely than others to suffer serious injuries. A high-quality statistical analysis will include separate calculations that researchers use to determine statistical significance, a form of evidence that indicates how consistent the data are with a research hypothesis.

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