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Navigation: PRINCIPLES OF STATISTICS > Nonparametric tests

Key concepts: Nonparametric tests

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ANOVA, t tests, and many statistical tests assume that you have sampled data from populations that follow a Gaussian bell-shaped distribution.

Biological data never follow a Gaussian distribution precisely, because a Gaussian distribution extends infinitely in both directions, and so it includes both infinitely low negative numbers and infinitely high positive numbers! But many kinds of biological data follow a bell-shaped distribution that is approximately Gaussian. Because ANOVA, t tests, and other statistical tests work well even if the distribution is only approximately Gaussian (especially with large samples), these tests are used routinely in many fields of science.

An alternative approach does not assume that data follow a Gaussian distribution. In this approach, values are ranked from low to high, and the analyses are based on the distribution of ranks. These tests, called nonparametric tests, are appealing because they make fewer assumptions about the distribution of the data.

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