# Do asterisks representing significance in figures refer to the p-value or to the significance level?

In scientific papers there are asterisks representing the significance. Do these asterisks represent the significance level of the performed test or do they represent the obtained p-values? For example if you perform a t-test with a significance level of 0.05 and you get a p-value of 0.003. Then you have to reject the null-hypothesis. But can you put one asterisk (p<0.05) or two asterisks (p<0.01) above the graph if you make one?

• I don't understand the question: what do you mean by "make one"?
– whuber
Apr 1, 2016 at 17:20
• @whuber "if you make one" refers to the "the graph", i.e. "when one is making a figure, what are the rules for deciding on the asterisk". Apr 1, 2016 at 21:25
• @amoeba That interpretation occurred to me, but I gave it a low probability of being correct because asterisks are usually applied to tables, not graphs. I haven't any definite idea what kind of "graph" is being referred to here, either. It seems one has to make a lot of assumptions in order to follow this question, which is why I have specifically requested clarification.
– whuber
Apr 1, 2016 at 21:34
• @whuber Oh, it is very very common in some fields to use asterisks in figures. Look at this: google.com/search?q=figure+asterisk+significance&tbm=isch. Apr 1, 2016 at 21:35

• Giving one star to $p=0.1$ is weird. What fields are using this convention? Apr 1, 2016 at 21:33
• @amoeba, I do it in economic forecasting :) when you have 50 observations, it's a gift to get $\alpha=0.05$. The point is that it's not a convention. I put the mapping in the table caption, so the reader knows what's it about. My table captions tend to be long, so you don't have to read the text to browse the tables and plots. Apr 1, 2016 at 21:37