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How to create a box (and whisker) plot (in R)

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A box plot, or a box and whisker plot, shows the quartiles of a single variable from a dataset (one of which is the median) and may also show the outliers. It is a simplified way to see the distribution of a variable. Sometimes multiple box plots (one for each of several variables) are shown side-by-side on a plot, to compare the variables. How can we create such graphs?

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We will create some fake data using vectors, for simplicity. But everything we show below works also if your data is in columns of a DataFrame.

patient_id     <- c(0,   1,   2,   3,   4,   5,   6,   7,   8,   9)
patient_height <- c(60,  64,  64,  65,  66,  66,  70,  72,  72,  76)
patient_weight <- c(141, 182, 169, 204, 138, 198, 180, 175, 244, 196)

We can use R’s boxplot() function to make the plot.


You can show more than one variable’s box plot side-by-side by passing both variables into the boxplot() function.

boxplot(patient_height, patient_weight)

Content last modified on 24 July 2023.

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Contributed by Elizabeth Czarniak (