Autoregressive moving average model. The general model introduced by Box and Jenkins (1976) includes autoregressive as well as moving average parameters, and explicitly includes differencing in the formulation of the model. Specifically, the three types of parameters in the model are: the autoregressive parameters (p), the number of differencing passes (d), and moving average parameters (q). In the notation introduced by Box and Jenkins, models are summarized as ARIMA (p, d, q); so, for example, a model described as (0, 1, 2) means that it contains 0 (zero) autoregressive (p) parameters and 2 moving average (q) parameters which were computed for the series after it was differenced once.

Identification. As mentioned earlier, the input series for ARIMA needs to be stationary, that is, it should have a constant mean, variance, and autocorrelation through time. Therefore, usually the series first needs to be differenced until it is stationary (this also often requires log transforming the data to stabilize the variance). The number of times the series needs to be differenced to achieve stationarity is reflected in the d parameter (see the previous paragraph). In order to determine the necessary level of differencing, one should examine the plot of the data and autocorrelogram. Significant changes in level (strong upward or downward changes) usually require first order non seasonal (lag=1) differencing; strong changes of slope usually require second order non seasonal differencing. Seasonal patterns require respective seasonal differencing (see below). If the estimated autocorrelation coefficients decline slowly at longer lags, first order differencing is usually needed. However, one should keep in mind that some time series may require little or no differencing, and that over differenced series produce less stable coefficient estimates.

At this stage (which is usually called Identification phase, see below) we also need to decide how many autoregressive (p) and moving average (q) parameters are necessary to yield an effective but still parsimonious model of the process (parsimonious means that it has the fewest parameters and greatest number of degrees of freedom among all models that fit the data). In practice, the numbers of the p or q parameters very rarely need to be greater than 2 (see below for more specific recommendations).

Estimation and Forecasting. At the next step (Estimation), the parameters are estimated (using function minimization procedures, see below; for more information on minimization procedures see also Nonlinear Estimation), so that the sum of squared residuals is minimized. The estimates of the parameters are used in the last stage (Forecasting) to calculate new values of the series (beyond those included in the input data set) and confidence intervals for those predicted values. The estimation process is performed on transformed (differenced) data; before the forecasts are generated, the series needs to be integrated (integration is the inverse of differencing) so that the forecasts are expressed in values compatible with the input data. This automatic integration feature is represented by the letter I in the name of the methodology (ARIMA = Auto-Regressive Integrated Moving Average).

The constant in ARIMA models. In addition to the standard autoregressive and moving average parameters, ARIMA models may also include a constant, as described above. The interpretation of a (statistically significant) constant depends on the model that is fit. Specifically, (1) if there are no autoregressive parameters in the model, then the expected value of the constant is m, the mean of the series; (2) if there are autoregressive parameters in the series, then the constant represents the intercept. If the series is differenced, then the constant represents the mean or intercept of the differenced series; For example, if the series is differenced once, and there are no autoregressive parameters in the model, then the constant represents the mean of the differenced series, and therefore the linear trend slope of the un-differenced series.