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J Clin Epidemiol. 2006 Apr;59(4):327-30. Epub 2006 Feb 7.

"Precision" and "accuracy": two terms that are neither.

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1
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Department of Psychiatry, Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit, University of Toronto, 3560 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario M6A 2E1, Canada. dstreiner@klaru-baycrest.on.ca

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

In some publications, the terms "precision" and "accuracy" are used as if they were synonyms for "reliability" and "validity."

METHODS AND RESULTS:

This article shows that these terms are neither precise nor accurate when used in this way. Scales can demonstrate high test-retest or interrater reliability (i.e., they are "precise") but still be unreliable in certain circumstances; and "imprecise" scales can still show good reliability. Further, "accuracy" as a synonym for validity reflects an outdated conceptualization of validity, which has been superseded by one that emphasizes that validity tells us what conclusions can be drawn about a person based on a test result.

CONCLUSION:

The article ends with a call for the use of the more traditional terms as better reflecting the process of scale development and the uses to which they are put.

PMID:
16549250
DOI:
10.1016/j.jclinepi.2005.09.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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