I am trying to find a distribution that fits my data (3500+ data points) with satisfying goodness of fit (gof), I use the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test and its p-value as a gof measurement (p-value > 0.1).

I have tried the plfit.m and plpva.m program from Clauset et al. to fit a power-law distribution to my data, but the p-value is close to zero indicating it is not a good fit.

The log-normal and exponential distribution is also tested using the R package poweRlaw, but I still can't get a good enough p-value (> 0.1). However, I think the fitted curve is just close enough to the empirical data, as the picture shows (generated by the poweRlaw package).

I am completely new to this kind of job but I have to report the gof in my paper, so I am wondering:

  1. Did I do the fitting job in the correct way? (I didn't modify the Matlab or R programs)
  2. Is Kolmogorov-Smirnov test a proper approach to measure the gof?
  3. If I remove the extreme cases (2 data points on the right tail), will it become better?
  4. What distribution should I fit my data?

Thanks! enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Why are you trying to find a distribution that fits your data? How was the data created? What was measured? $\endgroup$
    – Roland
    Dec 13, 2019 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Roland I constructed diffusion networks of ideas, in which the nodes and edges represent publications and citations. Each idea has a diffusion network, this data represents the distribution of the edge count of a network. The x- and y-axis represent the edge count and its corresponding cumulative probability. I want to describe some characteristics of it, so I think I should find it a proper distribution and describe the characteristics of that distribution. $\endgroup$
    – Tom Leung
    Dec 13, 2019 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ The link points to data with only one column (the x-values, most likely). Could you provide the y-values, too? Would make testing much easier... $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2019 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ @PatrickHappel I have updated my data with y-values, I am completely lost to find an appropriate distribution. Maybe the power-law distribution with xmin and xmax would help? But I don't know how to perform k-s test to this kind of truncated distribution. Is there any way to validate the gof? I really need some help. :( $\endgroup$
    – Tom Leung
    Dec 15, 2019 at 2:27

1 Answer 1


I've plotted log(data) vs abscissa and dropped two last points, graph below

enter image description here

data going below x=500 would be good fitted with just a linear function - which means exponential distribution because we plotted log(data).

But from 0 to 500 things looks different, maybe power law? Thus, I don't know if data could be fitted with one distribution function.


I played with truncated power law, and indeed this might work

Code (Python3.7, Anaconda x64 Win 10)

import numpy as np
from scipy.special import gamma
from scipy.optimize import curve_fit
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

xs = []
ys = []

with open('my_data.csv') as f:
     for line in f:
         x, y = line.split(',')

xs = np.asarray(xs)
ys = np.asarray(np.log(ys))

x0 = xs[0]

def F(x, a, b):
    return np.power((x-x0)+1.0, -a) * np.exp(-b*(x-x0))

def logF(x, a, b):
    return -a*np.log((x-x0)+1.0) + (-b*(x-x0))

popt, pcov = curve_fit(logF, xs, ys)

plt.plot(xs, ys, 'b*', label='data')
plt.plot(xs, logF(xs, *popt), 'g-', label='fit')

produced reasonable fit graph. And if you print sqrt of pcov diagonal, errors looks small



[0.38962489 0.00140291]
[2.51804031e-03 2.10496530e-05]

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot! If I only fit the partial data with a distribution, can I still perform a K-S test on it? If so, how? $\endgroup$
    – Tom Leung
    Dec 17, 2019 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ The python powerlaw package provides a truncated power-law fit (exponential cutoff) and I think it's better, but I don't know how to perform K-S test on it. Also, I can't figure out what is the CDF of a power-law with an exponential cutoff. $\endgroup$
    – Tom Leung
    Dec 17, 2019 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ @user99625 please check update, fitted values for [a, b] are [0.38962489 0.00140291] $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2019 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @user99625 Frankly, is you took out data shift, it looks at the end as Gamma distribution $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2019 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ @user99625 concerning K-S test, if you could by shifting, scaling and normalization make your fit into Gamma distribution, then K-S test should work with easy - CDF of Gamma distribution is well-known. $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2019 at 21:14

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