The p-Value Requires Context, Not a Threshold

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It is widely recognized by statisticians, though not as widely by other researchers, that the p-value cannot be interpreted in isolation, but rather must be considered in the context of certain features of the design and substantive application, such as sample size and meaningful effect size. I consider the setting of the normal mean and highlight the information contained in the p-value in conjunction with the sample size and meaningful effect size. The p-value and sample size jointly yield 95% confidence bounds for the effect of interest, which can be compared to the predetermined meaningful effect size to make inferences about the true effect. I provide simple examples to demonstrate that although the p-value is calculated under the null hypothesis, and thus seemingly may be divorced from the features of the study from which it arises, its interpretation as a measure of evidence requires its contextualization within the study. This implies that any proposal for improved use of the p-value as a measure of the strength of evidence cannot simply be a change to the threshold for significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-117
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Statistician
Issue numbersup1
StatePublished - Mar 29 2019


  • Effect size
  • Sample size
  • Statistical significance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • General Mathematics
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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