The estimation of a population mean given a random sample is a very common task. If the population standard deviation (\(\sigma\)) is known, the construction of a confidence interval for the population mean (\(\mu\)) is based on the normally distributed sampling distribution of the sample means (assured by the central limit theorem). Recall, that if the population from which the sample is taken is not normally distributed, the sample size \(n\), should be \(>30\).

The \(100(1-\alpha)\%\) confidence interval for \(\mu\) is given by

\[CI: \bar x \pm z^*_{\alpha/2}\times \sigma_{\bar x}\] \[\text{where}\qquad \sigma_{\bar x} = \frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}\]

The value of \(z^*_{\alpha/2}\)
corresponds to the critical value and is obtained from the standard normal table or computed with the
`qnorm()`

function in R. The critical value is a quantity
that is related to the desired level of confidence. In other words, it
is multiplied with the standard error, given by \(\sigma_{\bar x}\), in order to widen or
narrow the margin of error. Typical values for \(z^*_{\alpha/2}\) are 1.64, 1.96 and 2.58,
corresponding to confidence levels of 90 %, 95 % and 99 %.

The standard error (\(\sigma_{\bar
x}\)) is given by the ratio of the standard deviation of the
population (\(\sigma\)) and the square
root of the sample size \(n\). It
describes the degree to which the computed sample statistic may be
expected to differ from one sample to another. The product of the
critical value and the standard error is called the **margin of error**. It is the quantity that is
subtracted from and added to the value of \(\bar x\) to obtain the confidence interval
for \(\mu\).

**Citation**

The E-Learning project SOGA-R was developed at the Department of Earth Sciences by Kai Hartmann, Joachim Krois and Annette Rudolph. You can reach us via mail by soga[at]zedat.fu-berlin.de.

You may use this project freely under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please cite as follow: *Hartmann,
K., Krois, J., Rudolph, A. (2023): Statistics and Geodata Analysis
using R (SOGA-R). Department of Earth Sciences, Freie Universitaet Berlin.*