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RE: st: Forest Plot

From   "Steichen, Thomas J." <>
To   "''" <>
Subject   RE: st: Forest Plot
Date   Wed, 19 Mar 2008 11:02:26 -0400

Two peoples separated by a common language...

The American version of "seeing the wood for the trees" is generally "can't see the forest for the trees."  The interpretation being that the one big thing (the forest) is obscured by the many small things (the trees).

The British form (as per Nick and Lewis & Clark, 2001) almost turns that on its ear... seeing the wood (i.e., the interior of the tree in Americanese) rather than the tree itself.

Now, had Nick said "woods" (with an "s", which would reasonably equate to forest in Americanese) then the simile works better... the plot helps us see the forest despite the trees!


Thomas J. Steichen

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Nick Cox
Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 8:33 AM
Subject: RE: st: Forest Plot

At the risk of reminding many what they know already, but this is an international list:

It seems that the term 'forest plot' was used informally for some years before
it reached print. Often there is some selling line about seeing the wood for the trees.
That is, at least for native English speakers and perhaps for many others, a conscious play on a proverbial criticism: not being able to see the wood for the trees is missing a broad pattern through undue focus on the details. I guess every other language has some equivalent if not identical saying.

That's standard, I think. But Richard Peto, no less, is credited with a joke attribution of the plot to a cancer researcher called Pat Forrest. Whether for that reason, or for others, or just as a matter of lousy spelling, the spellings "Forest", "forrest" and "Forrest" are probably all to be found somewhere.

My main authority here, after a quick Google, is

Lewis, S. and Clarke, M. 2001.
Forest plots: trying to see the wood and the trees.
British Medical Journal 322: 1479–1480. doi:10.1136/bmj.322.7300.1479. 

Many if not all list members will be able to read that directly on the net.


Newson, Roger B

I think

findit forest plot

is the correct spelling. A forest plot is so called because the
bottom-line summary confidence interval is like a forest, and the
individual study confidence intervals are like the individual trees. It
is not named after a "Professor Forrest".

If Sripal wants to create a customized Stata format for forest plots,
then 2 useful tools might be -metaparm- (part of the -parmest- package)
and -eclplot-. The -parmest- and -eclplot- packages are both
downloadable from SSC using the -ssc- command. An example of a forest
plot produced using -metaparm- can be viewed in the presentation of
Newson (2006). The presentation, and the do-file to produce this forest
plot, can be downloaded from my website at

Newson R. Resultssets, resultsspreadsheets and resultsplots in Stata.
Presented at the 4th German Stata User Meeting, 31 March, 2006.
Download from

Maarten Buis replied to Sripal Kumar

> Is there a easier way to graph forest plots using stata for a
> meta-analysis.

In Stata type: findit forrest plot

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