The Standard Biplot

30 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2009

See all articles by Michael Greenacre

Michael Greenacre

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences

Date Written: July 4, 2009


Biplots are graphical displays of data matrices based on the decomposition of a matrix as the product of two matrices. Elements of these two matrices are used as coordinates for the rows and columns of the data matrix, with an interpretation of the joint presentation that relies on the properties of the scalar product. Because the decomposition is not unique, there are several alternative ways to scale the row and column points of the biplot, which can cause confusion amongst users, especially when software packages are not united in their approach to this issue. We propose a new scaling of the solution, called the standard biplot, which applies equally well to a wide variety of analyses such as correspondence analysis, principal component analysis, log-ratio analysis and the graphical results of a discriminant analysis/MANOVA, in fact to any method based on the singular-value decomposition. The standard biplot also handles data matrices with widely different levels of inherent variance. Two concepts taken from correspondence analysis are important to this idea: the weighting of row and column points, and the contributions made by the points to the solution. In the standard biplot one set of points, usually the rows of the data matrix, optimally represent the positions of the cases or sample units, which are weighted and usually standardized in some way unless the matrix contains values that are comparable in their raw form. The other set of points, usually the columns, is represented in accordance with their contributions to the low-dimensional solution. As for any biplot, the projections of the row points onto vectors defined by the column points approximate the centred and (optionally) standardized data. The method is illustrated with several examples to demonstrate how the standard biplot copes in different situations to give a joint map which needs only one common scale on the principal axes, thus avoiding the problem of enlarging or contracting the scale of one set of points to make the biplot readable. The proposal also solves the problem in correspondence analysis of low-frequency categories that are located on the periphery of the map, giving the false impression that they are important.

Keywords: Biplot, contributions, correspondence analysis, discriminant analysis, MANOVA, principal component analysis, scaling, singular-value decomposition, weighting

JEL Classification: C19, C88

Suggested Citation

Greenacre, Michael John, The Standard Biplot (July 4, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Michael John Greenacre (Contact Author)

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
34 93 542 25 51 (Phone)
34 93 542 17 46 (Fax)

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