Tips and Tricks for Getting Started with R

Written by: Josh Rosenberg

Primary Source: Josh Rosenberg

All statistical software have a learning curve, and compared to SPSS, R has taken me more time to learn the basics. However, since learning the basics, R seems easier to use than SPSS.

Here are 10 tips and tricks (and some resources) I found helpful for getting started with R:

  1. Use RStudio, a separate interface that is installed along with the R that makes R easier to use
  2. Learn the basics with Swirl, a tutorial built into the software
  3. Work with datasets with Data Analysis with R, a Udacity massive open online course
  4. Discovering Statistics Using R, a book that introduces the basics as well as strategies from comparing means to hierarchical linear models
  5. Type “data()” into the console to view the datasets already loaded in R and use these to get started
  6. Enter data into R by saving files from Excel, SPSS or other software as a comma separated values (.csv) file
  7. Learn how to specify what to do with missing data if there are any, otherwise commands will mysteriously not work
  8. Search Stack Overflow when something is not working
  9. Use Markdown to write and easily share syntax
  10. Find others using R and ask them questions (thanks Andrea, Alex and others)
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Joshua M. Rosenberg is a Ph.D. student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology program at Michigan State University. In his research, Joshua focuses on how social and cultural factors affect teaching and learning with technologies, in order to better understand and design learning environments that support learning for all students. Joshua currently serves as the associate chair for the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) Special Interest Group in the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education. Joshua was previously a high school science teacher, and holds degrees in education (M.A.) and biology (B.S.).