Choosing statistical tests: part 12 of a series on evaluation of scientific publications

Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2010 May;107(19):343-8. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2010.0343. Epub 2010 May 14.


Background: The interpretation of scientific articles often requires an understanding of the methods of inferential statistics. This article informs the reader about frequently used statistical tests and their correct application.

Methods: The most commonly used statistical tests were identified through a selective literature search on the methodology of medical research publications. These tests are discussed in this article, along with a selection of other standard methods of inferential statistics.

Results and conclusions: Readers who are acquainted not just with descriptive methods, but also with Pearson's chi-square test, Fisher's exact test, and Student's t test will be able to interpret a large proportion of medical research articles. Criteria are presented for choosing the proper statistical test to be used out of the most frequently applied tests. An algorithm and a table are provided to facilitate the selection of the appropriate test.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Humans
  • Publications / statistics & numerical data*