Load the package needed.


Generate 10,000 numbers fitted to gamma distribution.

x <- round(rgamma(100000,shape = 2,rate = 0.2),1)
x <- x[which(x>0)]

Draw the probability density function, supposed we don't know which distribution x fitted to.

t1 <- as.data.frame(table(x))
names(t1) <- c("x","y")
t1 <- transform(t1,x=as.numeric(as.character(x)))
t1$y <- t1$y/sum(t1[,2])
ggplot() + 
  geom_point(data = t1,aes(x = x,y = y)) + 


From the graph, we can learn that the distribution of x is quite like gamma distribution, so we use fitdistr() in package MASS to get the parameters of shape and rate of gamma distribution.

##       output 
##       shape           rate    
##   2.0108224880   0.2011198260 
##  (0.0083543575) (0.0009483429)

Draw the actual point(black dot) and fitted graph(red line) in the same plot, and here is the question, please look the plot first.

ggplot() + 
  geom_point(data = t1,aes(x = x,y = y)) +     
  geom_line(aes(x=t1[,1],y=dgamma(t1[,1],2,0.2)),color="red") + 

fitted graph

I have two questions:

  1. The real parameters are shape=2, rate=0.2, and the parameters I use the function fitdistr() to get are shape=2.01, rate=0.20. These two are nearly the same, but why the fitted graph don't fit the actual point well, there must be something wrong in the fitted graph, or the way I draw the fitted graph and actual points is totally wrong, what should I do?

  2. After I get the parameter of the model I establish, in which way I evaluate the model, something like RSS(residual square sum) for linear model, or the p-value of shapiro.test() , ks.test() and other test?

I am poor in statistical knowledge, could you kindly help me out?

ps: I have search in the Google, stackoverflow and CV many times, but found nothing related to this problem

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I first asked this question in stackoverflow, but it seemed to be that this question belongs to CV, the friend said I misunderstood the probability mass function and probability density function, I could not grasp it completely, so forgive me for answering this question again in CV $\endgroup$
    – Ling Zhang
    Jan 13, 2016 at 7:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your calculation of densities is incorrect. A simple way to calculate is h <- hist(x, 1000, plot = FALSE); t1 <- data.frame(x = h$mids, y = h$density). $\endgroup$
    – user81847
    Jan 13, 2016 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Pascal you are right, I have solved Q1, thank you! $\endgroup$
    – Ling Zhang
    Jan 13, 2016 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ See answer below, density function is a useful one. $\endgroup$
    – user81847
    Jan 13, 2016 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ I get it, thank you again for editing and solving my question $\endgroup$
    – Ling Zhang
    Jan 13, 2016 at 10:26

2 Answers 2


Question 1

The way you calculate the density by hand seems wrong. There's no need for rounding the random numbers from the gamma distribution. As @Pascal noted, you can use a histogram to plot the density of the points. In the example below, I use the function density to estimate the density and plot it as points. I present the fit both with the points and with the histogram:


# Generate gamma rvs

x <- rgamma(100000, shape = 2, rate = 0.2)

den <- density(x)

dat <- data.frame(x = den$x, y = den$y)

# Plot density as points

ggplot(data = dat, aes(x = x, y = y)) + 
  geom_point(size = 3) +

Gamma density

# Fit parameters (to avoid errors, set lower bounds to zero)

fit.params <- fitdistr(x, "gamma", lower = c(0, 0))

# Plot using density points

ggplot(data = dat, aes(x = x,y = y)) + 
  geom_point(size = 3) +     
  geom_line(aes(x=dat$x, y=dgamma(dat$x,fit.params$estimate["shape"], fit.params$estimate["rate"])), color="red", size = 1) + 

Gamma density fit

# Plot using histograms

ggplot(data = dat) +
  geom_histogram(data = as.data.frame(x), aes(x=x, y=..density..)) +
  geom_line(aes(x=dat$x, y=dgamma(dat$x,fit.params$estimate["shape"], fit.params$estimate["rate"])), color="red", size = 1) + 

Histogramm with fit

Here is the solution that @Pascal provided:

h <- hist(x, 1000, plot = FALSE)
t1 <- data.frame(x = h$mids, y = h$density)

ggplot(data = t1, aes(x = x, y = y)) + 
  geom_point(size = 3) +     
  geom_line(aes(x=t1$x, y=dgamma(t1$x,fit.params$estimate["shape"], fit.params$estimate["rate"])), color="red", size = 1) + 

Histogram density points

Question 2

To assess the goodness of fit I recommend the package fitdistrplus. Here is how it can be used to fit two distributions and compare their fits graphically and numerically. The command gofstat prints out several measures, such as the AIC, BIC and some gof-statistics such as the KS-Test etc. These are mainly used to compare fits of different distributions (in this case gamma versus Weibull). More information can be found in my answer here:


x <- c(37.50,46.79,48.30,46.04,43.40,39.25,38.49,49.51,40.38,36.98,40.00,

fit.weibull <- fitdist(x, "weibull")
fit.gamma <- fitdist(x, "gamma", lower = c(0, 0))

# Compare fits 


par(mfrow = c(2, 2))
plot.legend <- c("Weibull", "Gamma")
denscomp(list(fit.weibull, fit.gamma), fitcol = c("red", "blue"), legendtext = plot.legend)
qqcomp(list(fit.weibull, fit.gamma), fitcol = c("red", "blue"), legendtext = plot.legend)
cdfcomp(list(fit.weibull, fit.gamma), fitcol = c("red", "blue"), legendtext = plot.legend)
ppcomp(list(fit.weibull, fit.gamma), fitcol = c("red", "blue"), legendtext = plot.legend)

@NickCox rightfully advises that the QQ-Plot (upper right panel) is the best single graph for judging and comparing fits. Fitted densities are hard to compare. I include the other graphics as well for the sake of completeness.

Compare fits

# Compare goodness of fit

gofstat(list(fit.weibull, fit.gamma))

Goodness-of-fit statistics
                             1-mle-weibull 2-mle-gamma
Kolmogorov-Smirnov statistic    0.06863193   0.1204876
Cramer-von Mises statistic      0.05673634   0.2060789
Anderson-Darling statistic      0.38619340   1.2031051

Goodness-of-fit criteria
                               1-mle-weibull 2-mle-gamma
Aikake's Information Criterion      519.8537    531.5180
Bayesian Information Criterion      524.5151    536.1795
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I cannot revise, but you have a problem with the backtick for fitdistrplus and gofstat in your ansewer $\endgroup$
    – user81847
    Jan 13, 2016 at 9:31
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ One-line recommendation: the quantile-quantile plot is the best single graph for this purpose. Comparing observed and fitted densities is hard to do well. For example, it is hard to spot systematic deviations at high values that scientifically and practically are often very important. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Jan 13, 2016 at 10:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Glad we agree. The OP starts with 10,000 points. Many problems start with far fewer and then getting a good idea of the density can be problematic. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Jan 13, 2016 at 10:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @LingZhang To compare fits, you could look at the value of the AIC. The fit with the lowest AIC is preferred. Also, I disagree that the Weibull and Gamma distribution are quite the same in the QQ-Plot. The points of the Weibull fit are closer to the line compared with the Gamma fit, especially at the tails. Correspondingly, the AIC for the Weibull fit is smaller compared to the Gamma fit. $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2016 at 11:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Straighter is better. Also, see stats.stackexchange.com/questions/111010/… The principles are the same. Systematic deviation from linearity is a problem. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Jan 13, 2016 at 11:48

Addition to the answer provided above, but using density and adding some theme bling:


fit.gamma <- fitdist(df$y, "gamma", lower=c(0,0), start=list(scale=1,shape=1))
gammas<-round(rgamma(nrow(df), shape = fit.gamma$estimate["shape"], scale = fit.gamma$estimate["scale"]), 1)

gammas %>%
  as_tibble() %>%
  ggplot(aes(value)) +
  geom_histogram(stat = "density") +
  stat_function(fun = function(x) {dgamma(x, fit.gamma$estimate["shape"],scale=fit.gamma$estimate["scale"])}, color = "red") +
  lims(x = c(0, 15)) +
  theme_economist() +



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