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Issue 6, 2020
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To p or not to p: the use of p-values in analytical science


A significance test can be performed by calculating a test statistic, such as Student’s t or chi-squared, and comparing it with a critical value for the corresponding distribution. If the test statistic crosses the critical value threshold, the test is considered “significant”. The critical value is chosen so that there is a low probability – often 5% (for “95% confidence”) – of obtaining a significant test result by chance alone. Routine use of computers has changed this situation; software presents critical values at traditional probabilities, but now also calculates a probability, the “p-value”, for the calculated value of the test statistic. A low p-value – say, under 0.05 – can be taken as a significant result in the same way as a test statistic passing the 95% critical value. This applies to a wide variety of statistical tests, so p-values now pop-up routinely in statistical software. However, their real meaning is not as simple as it seems, and the widespread use of p-values in science has recently been challenged – even banned. What does this mean for p-values in analytical science?

Graphical abstract: To p or not to p: the use of p-values in analytical science

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Article information

18 Dec 2019
First published
31 Jan 2020

Anal. Methods, 2020,12, 872-874
Article type
AMC Technical Brief

To p or not to p: the use of p-values in analytical science

Analytical Methods Committee AMCTB No. 93, Anal. Methods, 2020, 12, 872
DOI: 10.1039/C9AY90196E

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