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st: prtest and the correction for continuity

From   Richard Williams <>
Subject   st: prtest and the correction for continuity
Date   Fri, 10 Sep 2004 09:06:29 -0500

As a sort of followup to my question about binomial confidence intervals (you can tell what is coming up in my classes soon) -- In the single sample case, -prtest- uses the normal approximation to the binomial, i.e. it relies on the fact that, as the number of binomial trials in an experiment increases, the distribution of the successes becomes more and more like a normal distribution. However, it isn't really normally distributed, because you can't have, say, 12.5 successes.

Some authors therefore recommend a correction for continuity -- if the number of successes is more than hypothesized, you subtract .5; if less, then you add .5.

-prtest- does not do the correction for continuity nor does it offer an option for doing so. Is this because

(a) the correction has now come to be widely discredited, or

(b) nobody ever asked for it before?

I've seen several sources use the correction and several not use it. I also get the impression that the correction is controversial because it sometimes makes matters worse rather than better, but I'm not clear on what those conditions are. Of course, it is best just to use the -bitest- command, but if you had to use the normal approximation to the binomial, should you apply the correction, or not? (Put another way, have I been misleading my students for 15+ years by teaching the correction for continuity?)

Richard Williams, Notre Dame Dept of Sociology
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