Eta Squared, Partial Eta Squared, and Misreporting of Effect Size in Communication Research


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Communication researchers, along with social scientists from a variety of disciplines, are increasingly recognizing the importance of reporting effect sizes to augment significance tests. Serious errors in the reporting of effect sizes, however, have appeared in recently published articles. This article calls for accurate reporting of estimates of effect size. Eta squared (η2) is the most commonly reported estimate of effect sized for the ANOVA. The classical formulation of eta squared (Pearson, 1911; Fisher, 1928) is distinguished from the lesser known partial eta squared (Cohen, 1973), and a mislabeling problem in the statistical software SPSS (1998) is identified. What SPSS reports as eta squared is really partial eta squared. Hence, researchers obtaining estimates of eta squared from SPSS are at risk of reporting incorrect values. Several simulations are reported to demonstrate critical issues. The strengths and limitations of several estimates of effect size used in ANOVA are discussed, as are the implications of the reporting errors. A list of suggestions for researchers is then offered.