Uppyn's Blog

The world through Dutch eyes in Sydney

Learning R – getting started

Learning to work comfortably with a powerful statistics and graphics package has long been a wish. In my work as a quality manager I often come across problems that require me to perform either some statistical analysis or create graphs or both. I have laboured for years with Excel as do so many. But there are better ways!

Having read some of the work of professor Tufte (e.g. his amazing book “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information“) I am aware of the many other software solutions out there to tackle this problem: Minitab, Mathlab, S and R to just name a few. The attractive aspect of R is that it is available as open source software and free. And it is amazingly powerful! You can find several good examples of the graphing capabilities of R here.

So where does one start? First of all to get R onto your computer. That can be achieved by going to the R website. You can download the R package from that website. This is the easy part! As you will discover with me, R has a rather steep learning curve.

Once R is on your system and you have started the software it looks something like this:

One of the fun things about R is that it contains many ready made data sets. One of them is ‘sunspots’ and by just typing:

> plot(sunspots)

You get this result:

This is a good example of how powerful R can be: with just one simple command you can plot a complex chart! In a next blog I will give some more examples.


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