Quant: Statistical Significance

Presume that you have analyzed a relationship between 2 management styles and found they are significantly related. A statistician has looked at your output and said that the results really do not explain much of what is happening in the total relationship.


In quantitative research methodologies, meaningful results get reported and their statistical significance, confidence intervals and effect sizes (Creswell, 2014). If the results from a statistical test have a low probability of occurring by chance (5% or 1% or less) then the statistical test is considered significant (Creswell, 2014; Field, 2014; Huck, 2011).  Low statistical significance values usually try to protect against type I errors (Huck, 2011). Statistical significance test can have the same effect yet result in different values (Field, 2014).  Statistical significance on large samples sizes can be affected by small differences and can show up as significant, while in smaller samples large differences may be deemed insignificant (Field, 2014).  Statistically significant results allow the researcher to reject a null hypothesis but do not test the importance of the observations made (Huck, 2011).  Huck (2011) stated two main factors that could influence whether or not a result is statistically significant is the quality of the research question and research design.  This is why Creswell (2014) also stated confidence intervals and effect size. Confidence intervals explain a range of values that describe the uncertainty of the overall observation and effect size defines the strength of the conclusions made on the observations (Creswell, 2014).  Huck (2011) suggested that after statistical significance is calculated and the research can either reject or fail to reject a null hypothesis, effect size analysis should be conducted.  The effect size allows researchers to measure objectively the magnitude or practical significance of the research findings through looking at the differential impact of the variables (Huck, 2011; Field, 2014).  Field (2014), defines one way of measuring the effect size is through Cohen’s d: d = (Avg(x1) – Avg(x2))/(standard deviation).  There are multiple ways to pick a standard deviation for the denominator of the effect size equation: control group standard deviation, group standard deviation, population standard deviation or pooling the groups of standard deviations that are assuming there is independence between the groups (Field, 2014).   If d = 0.2 there is a small effect, d = 0.5 there is a moderate effect, and d = 0.8 or more there is a large effect (Field, 2014; Huck, 2011). Thus, this could be the reason why the statistical test yielded a statistically significant value, but further analysis with effect size could show that those statistically significant results do not explain much of what is happening in the total relationship.


  • Creswell, J. W. (2014) Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches (4th ed.). California, SAGE Publications, Inc. VitalBook file.
  • Field, A. (2011) Discovering Statistics Using IBM SPSS Statistics (4th ed.). UK: Sage Publications Ltd. VitalBook file.
  • Huck, S. W. (2013) Reading Statistics and Research (6th ed.). Pearson Learning Solutions. VitalBook file.

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