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Selection of species and sampling areas: The importance of inference

Corn, Paul Stephen. 2009. Selection of species and sampling areas: The importance of inference. In: Dodd, C. Kenneth, Jr., editor. Amphibian ecology and conservation: A handbook of techniques. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press. p. 431-446.

Inductive inference, the process of drawing general conclusions from specific observations, is fundamental to the scientific method. Platt (1964) termed conclusions obtained through rigorous application of the scientific method as "strong inference" and noted the following basic steps: generating alternative hypotheses; devising experiments, the results of which will exclude one or more hypotheses; conducting the experiment to get a "clean result"; and repeating the process with revision based on the information obtained. Every student is exposed to these basics in introductory courses, and a considerable proportion of a modern graduate education in the sciences is devoted to acquiring the analytic (statistical) skills necessary to apply the scientific method. Not even considering the field of mathematical statistics or applied statistics in disciplines such as social sciences, library shelves groan under the weight of texts on applied statistics, ranging from introductory (Hayek and Buzas 1997) to advanced (Williams et al. 2002), for conducting research in ecology, and new works are published every year. Much effort is currently devoted to the mechanisms of analysis and the issues involved in choosing among statistical methods; specifically, traditional hypothesis testing versus information-theoretic or Bayesian approaches (Hobbs and Hilborn 2006). This chapter does not address these topics, but instead discusses some of the issues related to selection of study sites and species necessary to obtain a "clean result."

Keywords: sampling areas, inductive inference, clean result, study sites, species

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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Selection of species and sampling areas: The importance of inference
Electronic Publish Date: November 12, 2009
Last Update:
November 12, 2009

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