P-Value histograms: Inference and diagnostics

Patrick Breheny, Arnold Stromberg, Joshua Lambert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


It is increasingly common for experiments in biology and medicine to involve large numbers of hypothesis tests. A natural graphical method for visualizing these tests is to construct a histogram from the p-values of these tests. In this article, we examine the shapes, both regular and irregular, that these histograms can take on, as well as present simple inferential procedures that help to interpret the shapes in terms of diagnosing potential problems with the experiment. We examine potential causes of these problems in detail, and discuss potential remedies. Throughout, examples of irregular-looking p-value histograms are provided and based on case studies involving real biological experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Diagnostics
  • Histograms
  • Inference
  • P-value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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