Medical Dictionary

Medical Dictionary

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significance level

The probability that, assuming a null hypothesis, you would get by chance an effect as large as was seen in a particular experiment. This is the end result of doing a statistical test. It is usually expressed, for example, as P<0.01, along with details of the test. Usually if P>0.05 a result is described as 'not significant' (n.s.) , meaning that there isn't much certainty at all that the result was not a chance one. There is no universal answer to what is an 'acceptable' significance level. If it would challenge firm ideas to reject the null hypothesis, then you must weigh the probability that these ideas are wrong against the probability P that your results might be due to chance.

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