Stop Wasting Time on Significance Tests

August 26, 2012
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Have you ever conducted a research project and NOT done any significance tests?

Have you ever run a series of significance tests and wondered why you bothered to do them?

Have you ever conducted a research project and NOT done any significance tests?

Have you ever run a series of significance tests and wondered why you bothered to do them?

pie chart significance testLet’s think about why we do research projects and why we do significance testing. First of all, research isn’t worth doing unless the methodology is designed very carefully with appropriate sample sizes, great questions, and high standards of data quality. It should be designed with very clear research objectives in mind, with potential outcomes carefully thought out, with potential action steps carefully thought out. Quality research studies are conducted with measures of success clearly outlined before the research is carried out.

If all of these things are in place, then I challenge you to consider why you even bother with significance testing. A research study with clearly thought out objectives should be accompanied by specific hypotheses that lead to specific outcomes. Your well planned out study determined that Product A must generate scores that are at least X% better than Product B before Product A is identified as a success. If it does, then it makes sense to proceed with launching Product A.

So if you already know that you are seeking improvements of size X%, there is zero reason to conduct significance tests. Your measure of success has been predetermined. You already know that, based on your high quality research design, the difference is large enough to warrant moving forward with the launch.

In other words, if you need to run a signficance test to determine if a difference is important, then the difference is for sure not important at all. Significance tests aren’t required.