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1. Exploratory Data Analysis
1.3. EDA Techniques
1.3.3. Graphical Techniques: Alphabetic

Lag Plot

Purpose: Check for randomness A lag plot checks whether a data set or time series is random or not. Random data should not exhibit any identifiable structure in the lag plot. Non-random structure in the lag plot indicates that the underlying data are not random. Several common patterns for lag plots are shown in the examples below.
Sample Plot

sample lag plot exhibiting linear pattern

This sample lag plot of the MAVRO.DAT data set exhibits a linear pattern. This shows that the data are strongly non-random and further suggests that an autoregressive model might be appropriate.

Definition A lag is a fixed time displacement. For example, given a data set Y1, Y2 ..., Yn, Y2 and Y7 have lag 5 since 7 - 2 = 5. Lag plots can be generated for any arbitrary lag, although the most commonly used lag is 1.

A plot of lag 1 is a plot of the values of Yi versus Yi-1

  • Vertical axis: Yi for all i
  • Horizontal axis: Yi-1 for all i
Questions Lag plots can provide answers to the following questions:
  1. Are the data random?
  2. Is there serial correlation in the data?
  3. What is a suitable model for the data?
  4. Are there outliers in the data?
Importance Inasmuch as randomness is an underlying assumption for most statistical estimation and testing techniques, the lag plot should be a routine tool for researchers.
Related Techniques Autocorrelation Plot
Runs Test
Case Study The lag plot is demonstrated in the beam deflection data case study.
Software Lag plots are not directly available in most general purpose statistical software programs. Since the lag plot is essentially a scatter plot with the 2 variables properly lagged, it should be feasible to write a macro for the lag plot in most statistical programs.
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