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Chi-Square Test

Chi-square is a statistical test commonly used to compare observed data with data we would expect
to obtain according to a speciIic hypothesis. For example, iI, according to Mendel's laws, you
expected 10 oI 20 oIIspring Irom a cross to be male and the actual observed number was 8 males,
then you might want to know about the "goodness to Iit" between the observed and expected. Were
the deviations (diIIerences between observed and expected) the result oI chance, or were they due
to other Iactors. How much deviation can occur beIore you, the investigator, must conclude that
something other than chance is at work, causing the observed to diIIer Irom the expected. The chi-
square test is always testing what scientists call the null hypothesis, which states that there is no
signiIicant diIIerence between the expected and observed result.
The Iormula Ior calculating chi-square (
2
) is:
2
(o-e)
2
/e
That is, chi-square is the sum oI the squared diIIerence between observed (o) and the expected (e)
data (or the deviation, d), divided by the expected data in all possible categories.
For example, suppose that a cross between two pea plants yields a population oI 880 plants, 639
with green seeds and 241 with yellow seeds. You are asked to propose the genotypes oI the parents.
Your hypothesis is that the allele Ior green is dominant to the allele Ior yellow and that the parent
plants were both heterozygous Ior this trait. II your hypothesis is true, then the predicted ratio oI
oIIspring Irom this cross would be 3:1 (based on Mendel's laws) as predicted Irom the results oI the
Punnett square (Figure B. 1).
igure B.1 - Punnett Square. Predicted oIIspring Irom cross between
green and yellow-seeded plants. Green (G) is dominant (3/4 green; 1/4
yellow).

To calculate
2
, Iirst determine the number expected in each category. II the ratio is 3:1 and the
total number oI observed individuals is 880, then the expected numerical values should be 660
green and 220 yellow.

Chi-square requires that you use numerical values, not percentages or ratios.

Then calculate
2
using this Iormula, as shown in Table B.1. Note that we get a value oI 2.668 Ior
2
. But what does this number mean? Here's how to interpret the
2
value:
1. Determine degrees oI Ireedom (dI). Degrees oI Ireedom can be calculated as the number oI
categories in the problem minus 1. In our example, there are two categories (green and yellow);
thereIore, there is I degree oI Ireedom.
2. Determine a relative standard to serve as the basis Ior accepting or rejecting the hypothesis. The
relative standard commonly used in biological research is p ~ 0.05. The p value is
the probabilitythat the deviation oI the observed Irom that expected is due to chance alone (no other
Iorces acting). In this case, using p ~ 0.05, you would expect any deviation to be due to chance
alone 5 oI the time or less.
3. ReIer to a chi-square distribution table (Table B.2). Using the appropriate degrees oI 'Ireedom,
locate the value closest to your calculated chi-square in the table. Determine the
closestp(probability) value associated with your chi-square and degrees oI Ireedom. In this case (
2
2.668), the p value is about 0.10, which means that there is a 10 probability that any deviation
Irom expected results is due to chance only. Based on our standard p ~ 0.05, this is within the range
oI acceptable deviation. In terms oI your hypothesis Ior this example, the observed chi-squareis not
signiIicantly diIIerent Irom expected. The observed numbers are consistent with those expected
under Mendel's law.
Step-by-Step Procedure Ior Testing Your Hypothesis and Calculating Chi-Square
1. State the hypothesis being tested and the predicted results. Gather the data by conducting the
proper experiment (or, iI working genetics problems, use the data provided in the problem).
2. Determine the expected numbers Ior each observational class. Remember to use numbers, not
percentages.

Chi-square should not be calculated if the expected value in any category is less than 5.

3. Calculate
2
using the Iormula. Complete all calculations to three signiIicant digits. Round oII
4. Use the chi-square distribution table to determine signiIicance oI the value.
a. Determine degrees oI Ireedom and locate the value in the appropriate column.
b. Locate the value closest to your calculated

on that degrees oI Ireedom df row.

c. Move up the column to determine the p value.
5. State your conclusion in terms oI your hypothesis.
a. II the p value Ior the calculated
2
is p ~ 0.05, accept your hypothesis. 'The deviation is small
enough that chance alone accounts Ior it. A p value oI 0.6, Ior example, means that there is a
60 probability that any deviation Irom expected is due to chance only. This is within the
range oI acceptable deviation.
b. II the p value Ior the calculated
2
is p 0.05, reject your hypothesis, and conclude that
some Iactor other than chance is operating Ior the deviation to be so great. For example, a p
value oI 0.01 means that there is only a 1 chance that this deviation is due to chance alone.
ThereIore, other Iactors must be involved.
The chi-square test will be used to test Ior the "goodness to Iit" between observed and expected
data Irom several laboratory investigations in this lab manual.
Table B.1
Calculating Chi-Square

Green Yellow
bserved (o) 639 241
Expected (e) 660 220
Deviation (o - e) -21 21
Deviation
2
(d2) 441 441
d

/e 0.668 2
2
d
2
/e 2.668 . .

Table B.2
Chi-Square Distribution
Degrees oI
Freedom
(df)

Probability (p)
0.95 0.90 0.80 0.70 0.50 0.30 0.20 0.10 0.05 0.01 0.001
1 0.004 0.02 0.06 0.15 0.46 1.07 1.64 2.71 3.84 6.64 10.83
2 0.10 0.21 0.45 0.71 1.39 2.41 3.22 4.60 5.99 9.21 13.82
3 0.35 0.58 1.01 1.42 2.37 3.66 4.64 6.25 7.82 11.34 16.27
4 0.71 1.06 1.65 2.20 3.36 4.88 5.99 7.78 9.49 13.28 18.47
5 1.14 1.61 2.34 3.00 4.35 6.06 7.29 9.24 11.07 15.09 20.52
6 1.63 2.20 3.07 3.83 5.35 7.23 8.56 10.64 12.59 16.81 22.46
7 2.17 2.83 3.82 4.67 6.35 8.38 9.80 12.02 14.07 18.48 24.32
8 2.73 3.49 4.59 5.53 7.34 9.52 11.03 13.36 15.51 20.09 26.12
9 3.32 4.17 5.38 6.39 8.34 10.66 12.24 14.68 16.92 21.67 27.88
10 3.94 4.86 6.18 7.27 9.34 11.78 13.44 15.99 18.31 23.21 29.59
NonsigniIicant SigniIicant