Greg's DOE Adventure: Important Statistical Concepts behind DOE

Greg on May 3, 2019

If you read my previous post, you will remember that design of experiments (DOE) is a systematic method used to find cause and effect. That systematic method includes a lot of (frightening music here!) statistics.

[I’ll be honest here. I was a biology major in college. I was forced to take a statistics course or two. I didn’t really understand why I had to take it. I also didn’t understand what was being taught. I know a lot of others who didn’t understand it as well. But it’s now starting to come into focus.]

Before getting into the concepts of DOE, we must get into the basic concepts of statistics (as they relate to DOE).

Basic Statistical Concepts:

Variability
In an experiment or process, you have inputs you control, the output you measure, and uncontrollable factors that influence the process (things like humidity). These uncontrollable factors (along with other things like sampling differences and measurement error) are what lead to variation in your results.

Mean/Average
We all pretty much know what this is right? Add up all your scores, divide by the number of scores, and you have the average score.

Normal distribution
Also known as a bell curve due to its shape. The peak of the curve is the average, and then it tails off to the left and right.

Variance
Variance is a measure of the variability in a system (see above). Let’s say you have a bunch of data points for an experiment. You can find the average of those points (above). For each data point subtract that average (so you see how far away each piece of data is away from the average). Then square that. Why? That way you get rid of the negative numbers; we only want positive numbers. Why? Because the next step is to add them all up, and you want a sum of all the differences without negative numbers getting in the way. Now divide that number by the number of data points you started with. You are essentially taking an average of the squares of the differences from the mean.

That is your variance. Summarized by the following equation:

$$s^2 = \frac{\Sigma(Y_i - \bar{Y})^2}{(n - 1)}$$

In this equation:

Yi is a data point
Ȳ is the average of all the data points
n is the number of data points

Standard Deviation
Take the square root of the variance. The variance is the average of the squares of the differences from the mean. Now you are taking the square root of that number to get back to the original units. One item I just found out: even though standard deviations are in the original units, you can’t add and subtract them. You have to keep it as variance (s2), do your math, then convert back.

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