The value of RCT evidence depends on the quality of statistical analysis Academic Article uri icon


  • The authors examined statistical practices in 193 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of psychological therapies published in prominent psychology and psychiatry journals during 1999-2003. Statistical significance tests were used in 99% of RCTs, 84% discussed clinical significance, but only 46% considered-even minimally-statistical power, 31% interpreted effect size and only 2% interpreted confidence intervals. In a second study, 42 respondents to an email survey of the authors of RCTs analyzed in the first study indicated they consider it very important to know the magnitude and clinical importance of the effect, in addition to whether a treatment effect exists. The present authors conclude that published RCTs focus on statistical significance tests ("Is there an effect or difference?"), and neglect other important questions: "How large is the effect?" and "Is the effect clinically important?" They advocate improved statistical reporting of RCTs especially by reporting and interpreting clinical significance, effect sizes and confidence intervals.

publication date

  • February 2008