Two problems which exist while attempting to test the accuracy of thematic maps and mapping are: (1) evaluating the accuracy of thematic content, and (2) evaluating the effects of the variables on thematic mapping. Statistical analysis techniques are applicable to both these problems and include techniques for sampling the data and determining their accuracy. In addition, techniques for hypothesis testing, or inferential statistics, are used when comparing the effects of variables. A comprehensive and valid accuracy test of a classification project, such as thematic mapping from remotely sensed data, includes the following components of statistical analysis: (1) sample design, including the sample distribution, sample size, size of the sample unit, and sampling procedure; and (2) accuracy estimation, including estimation of the variance and confidence limits. Careful consideration must be given to the minimum sample size necessary to validate the accuracy of a given. classification category.
The results of an accuracy test are presented in a contingency table sometimes called a classification error matrix. Usually the rows represent the interpretation, and the columns represent the verification. The diagonal elements represent the correct classifications. The remaining elements of the rows represent errors by commission, and the remaining elements of the columns represent the errors of omission. For tests of hypothesis that compare variables, the general practice has been to use only the diagonal elements from several related classification error matrices. These data are arranged in the form of another contingency table. The columns of the table represent the different variables being compared, such as different scales of mapping. The rows represent the blocking characteristics, such as the various categories of classification. The values in the cells of the tables might be the counts of correct classification or the binomial proportions of these counts divided by either the row totals or the column totals from the original classification error matrices. In hypothesis testing, when the results of tests of multiple sample cases prove to be significant, some form of statistical test must be used to separate any results that differ significantly from the others. In the past, many analyses of the data in this error matrix were made by comparing the relative magnitudes of the percentage of correct classifications, for either individual categories, the entire map or both. More rigorous analyses have used data transformations and (or) two-way classification analysis of variance. A more sophisticated step of data analysis techniques would be to use the entire classification error matrices using the methods of discrete multivariate analysis or of multiviariate analysis of variance.