# Econstudentlog

## Medical Statistics (II)

In this post I’ll include some links and quotes related to topics covered in chapters 2 and 3 of the book. Chapter 2 is about ‘Collecting data’ and chapter 3 is about ‘Handling data: what steps are important?’

“Data collection is a key part of the research process, and the collection method will impact on later statistical analysis of the data. […] Think about the anticipated data analysis [in advance] so that data are collected in the appropriate format, e.g. if a mean will be needed for the analysis, then don’t record the data in categories, record the actual value. […] *It is useful to pilot the data collection process in a range of circumstances to make sure it will work in practice. *This usually involves trialling the data collection form on a smaller sample than intended for the study and enables problems with the data collection form to be identified and resolved prior to main data collection […] In general don’t expect the person filling out the form to do calculations as this may lead to errors, e.g. calculating a length of time between two dates. Instead, record each piece of information to allow computation of the particular value later […] The coding scheme should be designed at the same time as the form so that it can be built into the form. […] It may be important to distinguish between data that are simply missing from the original source and data that the data extractor failed to record. This can be achieved using different codes […] The use of numerical codes for non-numerical data may give the false impression that these data can be treated as if they were numerical data in the statistical analysis. This is not so.”

“It is critical that data quality is monitored and that this happens as the study progresses. It may be too late if problems are only discovered at the analysis stage. If checks are made during the data collection then problems can be corrected. More frequent checks may be worthwhile at the beginning of data collection when processes may be new and staff may be less experienced. […] The layout […] affects questionnaire completion rates and therefore impacts on the overall quality of the data collected.”

“Sometimes researchers need to develop a new measurement or questionnaire scale […] To do this rigorously requires a thorough process. We will outline the main steps here and note the most common statistical measures used in the process. […] Face validity *Is the scale measuring what it sets out to measure? […] Content validity *Does the scale cover all the relevant areas? […] *Between-observers consistency: is there agreement between different observers assessing the same individuals? *Within-observers consistency: is there agreement between assessments on the same individuals by the same observer on two different occasions? *Test-retest consistency: are assessments made on two separate occasions on the same individual similar? […] If a scale has several questions or items which all address the same issue then we usually expect each individual to get similar scores for those questions, i.e. we expect their responses to be internally consistent. […] Cronbach’s alpha […] is often used to assess the degree of internal consistency. [It] is calculated as an average of all correlations among the different questions on the scale. […] *Values are usually expected to be above 0.7 and below 0.9 *Alpha below 0.7 broadly indicates poor internal consistency *Alpha above 0.9 suggests that the items are very similar and perhaps fewer items could be used to obtain the same overall information”.

Bland–Altman plot.
Coefficient of variation.
Intraclass correlation.
Cohen’s kappa.
Likert scale. (“The key characteristic of Likert scales is that the scale is symmetrical. […] Care is needed when analyzing Likert scale data even though a numerical code is assigned to the responses, since the data are ordinal and discrete. Hence an average may be misleading […] It is quite common to collapse Likert scales into two or three categories such as agree versus disagree, but this has the disadvantage that data are discarded.”)
Visual analogue scale. (“VAS scores can be treated like continuous data […] Where it is feasible to use a VAS, it is preferable as it provides greater statistical power than a categorical scale”)

“Correct handling of data is essential to produce valid and reliable statistics. […] Data from research studies need to be coded […] It is important to document the coding scheme for categorical variables such as sex where it will not be obviously [sic, US] what the values mean […] It is strongly recommended that a unique numerical identifier is given to each subject, even if the research is conducted anonymously. […] Computerized datasets are often stored in a spreadsheet format with rows and columns of data. For most statistical analyses it is best to enter the data so that each row represents a different subject and each column a different variable. […] Prefixes or suffixes can be used to denote […] repeated measurements. If there are several repeated variables, use the same ‘scheme’ for all to avoid confusion. […] Try to avoid mixing suffixes and prefixes as it can cause confusion.”

“When data are entered onto a computer at different times it may be necessary to join datasets together. […] It is important to avoid over-writing a current dataset with a new updated version without keeping the old version as a separate file […] the two datasets must use exactly the same variable names for the same variables and the same coding. Any spelling mistakes will prevent a successful joining. […] It is worth checking that the joining has worked as expected by checking that the total number of observations in the updated file is the sum of the two previous files, and that the total number of variables is unchanged. […] When new data are collected on the same individuals at a later stage […], it may [again] be necessary to merge datasets. In order to do this the unique subject identifier must be used to identify the records that must be matched. For the merge to work, all variable names in the two datasets must be different except for the unique identifier. […] Spreadsheets are useful for entering and storing data. However, care should be taken when cutting and pasting different datasets to avoid misalignment of data. […] it is best not to join or sort datasets using a spreadsheet […in some research contexts, I’d add, this is also just plain impossible to even try, due to the amount of data involved – US…] […] It is important to ensure that a unique copy of the current file, the ‘master copy’, is stored at all times. Where the study involves more than one investigator, everyone needs to know who has responsibility for this. It is also important to avoid having two people revising the same file at the same time. […] It is important to keep a record of any changes that are made to the dataset and keep dated copies of datasets as changes are made […] Don’t overwrite datasets with edited versions as older versions may be needed later on.”

“Where possible, it is important to do some [data entry] checks early on to leave time for addressing problems while the study is in progress. […] *Check a random sample of forms for data entry accuracy. If this reveals problems then further checking may be needed. […] If feasible, consider checking data entry forms for key variables, e.g. the primary outcome. […] Range checks: […] tabulate all data to ensure there are no invalid values […] make sure responses are consistent with each other within subjects, e.g. check for any impossible or unlikely combination of responses such as a male with a pregnancy […] Check where feasible that any gaps are true gaps and not missed data entry […] Sometimes finding one error may lead to others being uncovered. For example, if a spreadsheet was used for data entry and one entry was missed, all following entries may be in the wrong columns. Hence, always consider if the discovery of one error may imply that there are others. […] Plots can be useful for checking larger datasets.”

“Trials are only stopped early when it is considered that the evidence for either benefit or harm is overwhelmingly strong. In such cases, the effect size will inevitably be larger than anticipated at the outset of the trial in order to trigger the early stop. Hence effect estimates from trials stopped early tend to be more extreme than would be the case if these trials had continued to the end, and so estimates of the efficacy or harm of a particular treatment may be exaggerated. This phenomenon has been demonstrated in recent reviews.1,2 […] Sometimes it becomes apparent part way through a trial that the assumptions made in the original sample size calculations are not correct. For example, where the primary outcome is a continuous variable, an estimate of the standard deviation (SD) is needed to calculate the required sample size. When the data are summarized during the trial, it may become apparent that the observed SD is different from that expected. This has implications for the statistical power. If the observed SD is smaller than expected then it may be reasonable to reduce the sample size but if it is bigger then it may be necessary to increase it.”