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Parametric and non parametric

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A potential source of confusion in working out what statistics to use in analysing data is whether your data allows for parametric or non-parametric statistics. The importance of this issue cannot be underestimated. If researcher get it wrong you it may risk using an incorrect statistical procedure or it may use a less powerful procedure. The basic distinction for paramteric versus non-parametric is: If your measurement scale is nominal or ordinal, then you use nonparametric statistics; If you are using interval or ratio scales, then you use parametric statistics. Non-paramteric statistical procedures are less powerful because they use less information in their calulation. For example, a parametric correlation uses information about the mean and deviation from the mean while a non-parametric correlation will use only the ordinal position of pairs of scores. There are other considerations which have to be taken into account: You have to look at the distribution of your data. If your data is supposed to take parametric statistics, you should check that the distributions are approximately normal. The best way to do this is to check the Skew and Kurtosis measures from the frequency output from SPSS. For a relatively normal distribution: skew ~= 1.0 kurtosis~=1.0 If a distribution deviates markedly from normality then you take the risk that the statistic will be inaccurate. The safest thing to do is to use an equivalent nonparametric statistic.

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Data are grouped as Nominal, Ordinal, Interval and Ratio (NOIR) and they are ordered in their increasing accuracy, powerfulness of measurement, preciseness and wide application of statistical techniques. Further, the nominal and ordinal data are qualitative (categorical), whereas interval and ratio data are quantitative (numerical). There are two broad groups of statistical tests, namely, parametric tests and non-parametric tests. Interval and ratio data are parametric, and are used with parametric tools in which distributions are predictable and often Normal. Nominal and ordinal data are non-parametric, and do not assume any particular distribution. They are used with non-parametric tools such as the Histogram. Parametric data follows particular rules and mathematical algorithms. As a result detailed conclusions may be drawn about the data. Experiments are thus often designed to use parametric data. There are very different parametric and nonparametric tests used in analysis, depending on the type of data you chose during the design. Parametric tests require measurements equivalent to at least an interval scale and assume that certain properties of parent population like: i) ii) iii) observations are from a normally distributed population the study is based on large sample (>30) population parameters like mean, variance, etc. are known.

Non-parametric tests do not depend on the shape of the distribution of the population and hence are known as distribution-free tests. In other words, they do not depend on any assumptions about properties or parameters of the parent population. Most non-parametric tests assume nominal or ordinal data. Nonparametric tests require more observations than parametric tests to achieve the same size of Type I and Type II errors. Non-parametric tests have the relative advantages that they do not require to satisfy stringent assumptions like that of parametric tests. In other words, non-parametric tests make minimal demands in terms of pre-requisites. They are also much less cumbersome to use as far as computational techniques are concerned. They are most useful when dealing with

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qualitative variables and with data that can be classified in order or as ranks. Some of the common non-parametric tests are Chi-SquareTest, The Sign Test, The MannWhitney U-Test, The Runs test for Randomness and The Kruskal-Wallis H Test. As the table below shows, parametric data has an underlying normal distribution which allows for more conclusions to be drawn as the shape can be mathematically described.

Parametric Assumed distribution Assumed variance Typical data Data set relationships Usual central measure Benefits Tests Choosing Correlation test Independent measures, 2 groups Independent measures, > 2 groups Repeated measures, 2 conditions Repeated measures, > 2 conditions Choosing parametric test Pearson Independent-measures t-test One-way, independent-measures ANOVA Matched-pair t-test One-way, repeated measures ANOVA Normal Homogeneous Ratio or Interval Independent Mean Can draw more conclusions

Non-parametric Any Any Ordinal or Nominal Any Median Simplicity; Less affected by outliers

Choosing a non-parametric test Spearman Mann-Whitney test Kruskal-Wallis test Wilcoxon test Friedman's test

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The chart below can be use to determine the type of the data (column) and the purpose of the data analysis (row). Then find the intersection of the relevant row and column. The appropriate statistical test is shown. This is not an exhaustive list of statistical tests, but illustrative only.

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