StATS: Forest plots (January 12, 2005)

Many meta-analyses use a graph known as a forest plot. I was always confused by the funny squares in a forest plot, so I looked for a description. An example of a forest plot appears in

and because this is an open-access article, I can reproduce the graph here.

 Here is what the User's Guide for RevMan (software created by the Cochrane Collaboration) says about forest plots:

The graph is a forest plot where the confidence interval (CI) for each study is represented by a horizontal line and the point estimate is represented by a square. The size of the square corresponds to the weight of the study in the meta-analysis. The confidence interval for totals are represented by a diamond shape. The scale used on the graph depends on the statistical method. Dichotomous data (except for risk differences) are displayed on a logarithmic scale. Continuous data and risk differences are displayed on a linear scale. Generic inverse variance data are displayed on either a logarithmic scale or a linear scale depending on the settings in RevMan. -- (page 36).

This page was written by Steve Simon while working at Children's Mercy Hospital. Although I do not hold the copyright for this material, I am reproducing it here as a service, as it is no longer available on the Children's Mercy Hospital website. Need more information? I have a page with general help resources. You can also browse for pages similar to this one at Category: Systematic overviews.