Median Polish with Power Transformations as an Alternative for the Analysis of Contingency Tables with Patient Data
Contingency tables are a very common basis for the investigation of effects of different treatments or influences on a disease or the health state of patients. Many journals put a strong emphasis on p-values to support the validity of results. Therefore, even small contingency tables are analysed by techniques like t-test or ANOVA. Both these concepts are based on normality assumptions for the underlying data. For larger data sets, this assumption is not so critical, since the underlying statistics are based on sums of (independent) random variables which can be assumed to follow approximately a normal distribution, at least for a larger number of summands. But for smaller data sets, the normality assumption can often not be justified.
Robust methods like the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney-U test or the Kruskal-Wallis test do not lead to statistically significant p-values for small samples. Median polish is a robust alternative to analyse contingency tables providing much more insight than just a p-value.
In this paper we discuss different ways to apply median polish to contingency tables in the context of medical data and how to interpret the results based on different examples. We also introduce a technique based on power transformations to find a suitable transformation of the data before applying median polish.
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