PerspectiveResearch Design

Breaking Free of Sample Size Dogma to Perform Innovative Translational Research

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Science Translational Medicine  15 Jun 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 87, pp. 87ps24
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001628

Figures

  • Fig. 1.

    How sample size influences the scientific or practical value that a study can be expected to produce, under three different scenarios. Numeric labels on the axes are absent because specific values will differ for different studies, but the qualitative relationship illustrated applies to all studies of new ideas. When the idea is a fundamental breakthrough, this will usually be apparent from a relatively small study. A much larger sample size does not produce much additional value. Similarly, when the idea is completely off-target, this will usually be apparent from a relatively small study. In intermediate cases, larger sample sizes might add value. However, increasing sample size still produces diminishing marginal returns.

    CREDIT: C. BICKEL/SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE

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