EBM Consult

Alpha Value (α)

    What is an Alpha Value (α)?
    • α ("Alpha") is the probability of concluding that there is a difference between the groups studied, but in reality there is no difference (also known as making a "type I error").
    • α is usually set a-priori to be 0.05.
    • A finding is considered to be statistically significant if the p-value obtained is < 0.05.

    • Simplistically, α is the chance of making a type I error. 
    • The smaller the α value the lower the risk of making a type I error.  Note: doing this also usually means the investigator will need a larger sample size to a difference if it exists.
    • The alpha value and sample size are the two most common contributors to the power of a study.
    • Setting the alpha to be smaller (e.g., going from an α < 0.05 to an α < 0.025) prior to starting a study will make it harder for investigators to find a difference if in fact a difference is to be found.
      • However, if a difference is found when doing this, the risk of making a type I error is lower.
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    Editors & Reviewers

    Editors & Reviewers:

    • Anthony J. Busti, MD, PharmD, FNLA, FAHA
    • Karolina DeAugustinis, MD

    Last Reviewed: July 2015