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Physical Review Physics Education Research
written by Cole Walsh, Martin M. Stein, Ryan Tapping, Emily M. Smith, and N. G. Holmes
Omitted variable bias occurs in most statistical models. Whenever a confounding variable that is correlated with both dependent and independent variables is omitted from a statistical model, estimated effects of included variables are likely to be biased due to omitted variables. This issue is particularly problematic in physics education research where many research studies are quasiexperimental or observational in nature due to ethical and logistical limitations. In this paper, we illustrate the mechanisms behind omitted variable bias in explanatory modeling using authentic data and analytical solutions. We demonstrate that omitting confounding variables that are strongly correlated with included variables and have large effects on the dependent variable can significantly bias estimated effects for included variables. We also find that controlling for variables that are uncorrelated with other variables or have no effect on the dependent variable does not appreciably bias estimated effects and may or may not affect the precision of those estimates. These results suggest that removing from explanatory models variables that are not "statistically significant" can have unintended consequences on model and variable interpretations. Our results underscore the importance of carefully considering why or why not to include a variable in a model, informed by both data and theory.
Physical Review Physics Education Research: Volume 17, Issue 1, Pages 010119
Subjects ADS Supplements Resource Types
Education Foundations
- Research Design & Methodology
= Statistics
= Validity
General Physics
- Physics Education Research
- Reference Material
= Research study
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Free access
License:
This material is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.
Rights Holder:
American Physical Society
DOI:
10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010119
NSF Numbers:
DUE
1611482
Keyword:
statistical bias
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created May 12, 2021 by Bruce Mason
Record Updated:
March 26, 2022 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 25, 2021
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AIP Format
C. Walsh, M. Stein, R. Tapping, E. Smith, and N. Holmes, , Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 17 (1), 010119 (2021), WWW Document, (https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010119).
AJP/PRST-PER
C. Walsh, M. Stein, R. Tapping, E. Smith, and N. Holmes, Exploring the effects of omitted variable bias in physics education research, Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 17 (1), 010119 (2021), <https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010119>.
APA Format
Walsh, C., Stein, M., Tapping, R., Smith, E., & Holmes, N. (2021, March 25). Exploring the effects of omitted variable bias in physics education research. Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res., 17(1), 010119. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010119
Chicago Format
Walsh, C, M. Stein, R. Tapping, E. Smith, and N. Holmes. "Exploring the effects of omitted variable bias in physics education research." Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 17, no. 1, (March 25, 2021): 010119, https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010119 (accessed 3 February 2023).
MLA Format
Walsh, Cole, Martin M. Stein, Ryan Tapping, Emily M. Smith, and Natasha G. Holmes. "Exploring the effects of omitted variable bias in physics education research." Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 17.1 (2021): 010119. 3 Feb. 2023 <https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010119>.
BibTeX Export Format
@article{ Author = "Cole Walsh and Martin M. Stein and Ryan Tapping and Emily M. Smith and Natasha G. Holmes", Title = {Exploring the effects of omitted variable bias in physics education research}, Journal = {Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res.}, Volume = {17}, Number = {1}, Pages = {010119}, Month = {March}, Year = {2021} }
Refer Export Format

%A Cole Walsh %A Martin M. Stein %A Ryan Tapping %A Emily M. Smith %A Natasha G. Holmes %T Exploring the effects of omitted variable bias in physics education research %J Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. %V 17 %N 1 %D March 25, 2021 %P 010119 %U https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010119 %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Journal Article %A Walsh, Cole %A Stein, Martin M. %A Tapping, Ryan %A Smith, Emily M. %A Holmes, Natasha G. %D March 25, 2021 %T Exploring the effects of omitted variable bias in physics education research %J Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. %V 17 %N 1 %P 010119 %8 March 25, 2021 %U https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010119


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