@TECHREPORT{Minka00estimatinga, author = {Thomas P. Minka}, title = {Estimating a Dirichlet distribution}, institution = {}, year = {2000} }

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Abstract

The Dirichlet distribution and its compound variant, the Dirichlet-multinomial, are two of the most basic models for proportional data, such as the mix of vocabulary words in a text document. Yet the maximum-likelihood estimate of these distributions is not available in closed-form. This paper describes simple and efficient iterative schemes for obtaining parameter estimates in these models. In each case, a fixed-point iteration and a Newton-Raphson (or generalized Newton-Raphson) iteration is provided. 1 The Dirichlet distribution The Dirichlet distribution is a model of how proportions vary. Let p denote a random vector whose elements sum to 1, so that pk represents the proportion of item k. Under the Dirichlet model with parameter vector α, the probability density at p is p(p) ∼ D(α1,...,αK) = Γ(∑k αk) k Γ(αk)