Introduction to Power and Sample Size Analysis

Effect Size

There is some confusion in practice about how to postulate the effect size. One alternative is to specify the effect size that represents minimal clinical significance; then the result of the power analysis reveals the chances of detecting a minimally meaningful effect size. Often this minimal effect size is so small that it requires excessive resources to detect. Another alternative is to make an educated guess of the true underlying effect size. Then the power analysis determines the chance of detecting the effect size that is believed to be true. The choice is ultimately determined by the research goals. Finally, you can specify a collection of possible values, perhaps spanning the range between minimally meaningful effects and larger surmised effects.

You can arrive at values for required quantities in a power analysis, such as effect sizes and measures of variability, in many different ways. For example, you can use pilot data, results of previous studies reported in literature, educated guesses derived from theory, or educated guesses derived from partial data (a small sample or even just quantiles).