4.5 Objects

4.5.1 Creating Objects

When you have certain values, data, plots, etc that you want to work with You can create objects (make assignments) in R with the assignment operator <-:

All R statements where you create objects, assignment statements, have the same form:

object_name <- value

When reading that code say “object name gets value” in your head.

x <- 3 * 4

## [1] 12

Once you have an object you can do other calculations with it.

x * x
## [1] 144

Objects vs. Variables
What are known as objects in R are known as variables in many other programming languages. Depending on the context, object and variable can have drastically different meanings. However, in this lesson, the two words are used synonymously. For more information see: https://cran.r-project.org/doc/manuals/r-release/R-lang.html#Objects

That last example was kind of abstract. So let’s look at a more practical example.

Let’s do some calculations with the population of Maryland. First we can save the population number to an object. We will call it md_pop because that is short, descriptive, and easy to remember.

md_pop <- 6177224

What percentage of the Maryland population is over 18? According to the Census Bureau, 78% of the Maryland population is over 18. We can use that to calculate the number of adults in Maryland.

md_adult_pop <- .78 * md_pop

Next, maybe we are interested in how many people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of late June 2021 that number is 3.63 million.

md_vax_pop <- 3630000

Now we can calculate the percentage of the Maryland population that is vaccinated.

percent_vax <- (md_vax_pop / md_pop) * 100

As more people get vaccinated this can be updated. Let’s say later in the summer we have 4.1 million with at least one dose of the vaccine. We can re-assign the value of md_vax_pop

md_vax_pop <- 4100000

Then recalculate percent_vax

percent_vax <- (md_vax_pop / md_pop) * 100

You will make lots of assignments and <- is a pain to type. Avoid the temptation to use =: it will work, but it will cause confusion later. Instead, use RStudio’s keyboard shortcut: Alt + - (the minus sign).

Notice that RStudio automagically surrounds <- with spaces, which is a good code formatting practice. Code is miserable to read on a good day, so giveyoureyesabreak and use spaces.

Naming Objects

The name for objects must start with a letter, and can only contain letters, numbers, underscores (_)and periods (.). The name of the object should describe what is being assigned so they typically will be multiple words. One convention used is snake_case where lowercase words are separated with _. Another popular style is camelCase where compound words or phrases are written so that each word or abbreviation in the middle of the phrase begins with a capital letter, with no intervening spaces or punctuation and the first letter is lowercase.

others.use.periods                  #avoid
Others_pRefer.to_RENOUNCEconvention #avoid