R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. It is what’s known as ‘open source’, which means that unlike commercial software companies that protectively hide away the code on which their software is based, the people who developed R allow everyone to access their code. This open source philosophy allows anyone, anywhere to contribute to the software. Consequently, the capabilities of R dynamically expand as people from all over the world add to it.
In essence, R exists as a base package with a reasonable amount of functionality. Once you have downloaded R and installed it on your own computer, you can start doing some data analysis and graphs. However, the beauty of R is that it can be expanded by downloading packages that add specific functionality to the program.
Commands in R are generally made up of two parts: objects and functions. These are separated by ‘<-‘, which you can think of meaning ‘is created from’. As such, the general form of a command is:
Which means ‘object is created from function’. An object is anything created in R. It could be a variable, a collection of variables, a statistical model etc. Objects can be single values (such as the mean of a set of scores) or collections of information; for example, when you run an analysis, you create an object that contains the output of that analysis, which means that this object contains many different values and variables. Functions are the things that you do in R to create your objects.


  • I am a bit lazy at the moment, so rather than write a nice guide to R, here’s an excerpt from my R textbook that explores the R environment, including creating variables and getting data into R. Hopefully in due course I might add some tutorials here. You never know!
  • Data Files

Continue Your Journey

Next topic