Final Thoughts

We hope we met our goal of illustrating the power and usefulness of R and a variety of packages in analyzing educational research data. As we noted in the Introduction, we think the R system has many benefits for educational research. R has become the flagship computing environment for many areas of science and has great appeal because it is free and open-access. In addition, free tools like RStudio and R Markdown promote a replication commitment and open science philosophy important to our work.

One particular strength of R is that it encourages and facilitates data sharing and replication. Through the use of R tools, educational researchers can readily share their work. Although one could argue that it is possible to encourage replication using popular statistical packages (e.g., SPSS, Stata, SAS, MPlus, EQS) by sharing relevant code or syntax and data files, the fact that they are propriety may limit replication efforts. Using R, any researcher has free and open access to the statistical methods used in a study and can easily do replications.

In addition, RStudio and R Markdown make sharing both original research and replication studies accessible. For example, this document was produced using bookdown, a powerful addition to R and RStudio. bookdown facilitates authoring books and technical documents which can then can be published in a variety of formats including HTML (this document) and PDF. The strength of using bookdown (and R Markdown) is that all of the components of the research process are presented in an integrated framework. This stands in contrast to writing reports using a standard word processing program (Microsoft Word, for example) and one or more statistical packages (SPSS and MPlus, for example) where results from the programs have to be transferred into the Word document. Using separate programs becomes a particularly difficult challenge when results are re-run and reports have to be updated. In bookdown such updates and changes are easily made.