R Language

I am sure many of you are questioning learning another software/language beyond what you have allready learned. Whether we worked in Excel, with calculators, or some other software the statistical methods used in this class would require quite a bit of training with the other options as well.

Beyond being FREE and the predominate statistical software used in science, industry, research, and business it has great pedagogical advantages. Our text book leverages R for the examples and homework. We will also use R on our tests.

Daniel Kaplan summarized a great learning/teaching advantage of using R in the following quote.

“In mathematics and statistics, the output of one computation often becomes the input to another computation. That’s why math courses spend so much time talking about functions (and”domain" and “range”, etc.). In word processing, whenever you highlight a word and move it or change the font or replace it, you still end up with stuff on which you can perform the same operations: highlighting, moving, font-changing, etc. Not so in math and statistics. The sorts of operations that you will often perform - solving, integration, statistical summaries, etc. - produce a new kind of thing on which you will be performing new kinds of operations. In mathematics and statistics, you create a chain of operations and you need to be able to express the steps in that chain. It’s not a question of having enough buttons to list all the operations, you’ll need combinations of operations - more than could possibly be listed in a menu system." [Start R in Calculus]

Finally you should know that the difficulty of coding in Excel has contributed to some serious blunders in globally impactfull discussions [1,2,3] and has serious flaws in how data are even handled.

Below are some references from reputable online sources (Asking Quora is pushing it but I like the conversation).

  • Fast Company Article on R
    • “R can do literally everything, and all new research is done in R. So especially for businesses that really want to out-compete their competitors on the basis of advanced analytics, they can get access to everything they need within R, things that might not come for five or 10 years through commercial software,” says Smith.
  • New York Times on R
    • “The great beauty of R is that you can modify it to do all sorts of things,” said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. “And you have a lot of prepackaged stuff that’s already available, so you’re standing on the shoulders of giants.”
  • InfoWorld
    • Still, Adams and Peng both see R as an accessible language. “I don’t come from a computer science background and never had aspirations of becoming a programmer. Knowledge of programming fundamentals certainly helps when adding R to your toolbox, but I wouldn’t say it’s required to get started,” Adams says.
    • “I wouldn’t even say R is for programmers. It’s best suited for people that have data-oriented problems they’re trying to solve, regardless of their programming aptitude.”
  • Asking Quora
    • General: MATLAB, LaTEX, R (programming language) Irrespective of your field, this stuff is useful and is generally expected from Mechanical Engineers. As a matter of fact, the last two are recommended to any engineer/professional as they come in handy while making presentations and statistical models.

Learning R

We will spend time during class all semester learning new syntax. During the first two weeks we will spend a little more time learning the basics of R and how to use it (often the most challenging). Daniel Kaplan’s book also has a nice introduction.

Installing and Introducing R and R-Studio

R Help and Script Eval