Chapter 1 Getting Started

1.1 Download the Softwares

1.1.1 Step 1: Download R

Download R for free from this website

Here is a short video that walks you through the process.

1.1.2 Step 2: Download RStudio

While R is the workhorse that actually gets your analysis done, RStudio provides a nice platform that allows you to partition your screen into:

  • a space to type your code (topleft panel in the image below), edit it, and save it. This is called the source editor.
  • a space to run your code (bottom left panel). This is called the console window.
  • and another space to see the plots that your code produced (bottom right panel)

This is the RStudio interface

Download RStudio for free from this website

Here is a short video that walks you through the process.

1.2 Save and Run Your Code

You may have used a point-and-click statistics package such as Excel and SPSS. R is different from these packages in that you will need to type your command instead of pointing and clicking. This may sound daunting (although not nearly as much as you imagined), but you will soon discover the power and freedom of using such a language–imagine texting your friend using a point-and-click interface!

This course will only cover some very basic phrases of the R language, such as

“Good morning, would you open the data for me?”

“Please produce a histogram.”

“Wise and benevolent R, tell me the class average height.”

“Will you stop giving me the error message?”

Still, you are not expected to (in fact, you shouldn’t try to) learn these phrases by heart. The right way of learning this language is to keep organizing and saving your own code so you can find things quickly:

  • Type your code in the source editor, not in the console.
  • Save your code in the source editor after you complete every assignment
  • Only save the correct code.

1.2.1 Type and Save your code in the source editor

The console window is where you actually talk to the computer, and where the computer talks back. But this conversation is forgotten immediately after you close the session.

By typing your code in the source editor, you can run it in console, and also save your code in a file without saving what the computer says (we call it the output). This is equivalent to a function that allows you to save everything you said when texting your friend without saving what he/she said. Since what your friend, the computer, says is predictable to everything that you says, preserving your side of the text allows you to easily reproduce the whole conversation.

Now saving the code won’t help you unless you know where it is saved. This is where good file management becomes extremely important.

To make this simple, let’s create a new folder on your desktop (or some other preferred place of yours) for this course, and then create two new folders within this one: one named “Data” another named “Code.” And from now on, let’s make a habit of saving all the data in the “Data” folder, and all your codes in the “Code” folder.

1.2.2 Creating New Folders

  • In Windows, right click where you want the folder to locate, choose New > Folder. Enter a name for the folder, then press Enter.

  • In Mac, navigate to where you want the folder to locate, choose File > New Folder. Enter a name for the folder, then press Return.

1.2.3 Type, Run, and Save a line of code

  1. Open RStudio, go to “File,” “New File,” and click on “R Script.” This will open the source editor.

  1. Type the following line of code into the source editor.
  1. Run this line of code: make sure your cursor is anywhere in this line and then hit “Run.” Also make sure you bottom right plot window is open–you can drag the borders around using your mouse

And you should get the following plot:

Knowing some short-cut keys will allow you to run the code faster:
In Windows, the short-cut for Run is CTRL + Enter
In Mac, the short-cut for Run is cmd + Enter

  1. now save this code in the “Code” folder:

1.2.4 Only Save the Correct Code

While working on an assignment, you will type a lot of codes in the editor, some of them may not be correct. These codes are what you will build on in later assignments, so saving the wrong code will really confuse you.

After completing each assignment: go back to the top of your source editor; run each line; remove the ones that don’t run. It only takes a few seconds, but will save you much time later.

Here is a short video that walks you through the process.

1.3 How to Open Data in R

Note: Since RStudio is our preferred operating platform, when I say “in R” or “with R” anywhere in this book, you can assume that we are doing this in RStudio.

We can open data of many different formats with R. In this course we mainly deal with data in Excel format (these are documents with names ending in .xlsx) and in SPSS format (with names ending in .sav).

Opening the data in R involves the following steps:

  • Download the data (do not try to open it directly) into your data folder.
  • In R, set your working directory in that folder
  • In R, read and attach the data

1.3.1 Set Working Directory

  1. Open Rstudio
  2. Go to Session > Set working directory, click on “choose directory”

Here’s what it looks like on a PC

  1. Find your data folder, click “open”

  2. In the Console window, you will see a line of code. This line tells R where to find your data. If you copy and paste this line in the source editor and save it, you can keep using this line for all your assignments and don’t need to go through the point-and-click process anymore.

1.3.2 Read Excel Data

  1. Make sure your data was saved in .csv format

Here’s what it looks like on a PC

  1. Use the following code to read and attach the data:

        Two parts in the read.csv line need to be altered to fit your own case:

The part to the left of the equation sign, survey, is a nickname you give to the data. You can change it to anything else, but you should stick to this nickname whenever you refer to this particular data.

The part inside the quotation marks, ED101survey2020.csv, is the actual name you saved the data as. Make sure this name matches exactly what you have in the data folder.

1.3.3 Read SPSS Data

Use the following code to read SPSS data:


        Two parts in the read.spss line need to be altered to fit your own case:

The part to the left of the equation sign, titan, is a nickname you give to the data. You can change it to anything else, but you should stick to this nickname whenever you refer to this particular data.

The part inside the quotation marks, Titanic.sav, is the actual name you saved the data as. Make sure this name matches exactly what you have in the data folder.

Here is a short video that walks you through the process.

1.4 Some Basic Concepts

1.4.1 What is a ‘case?’

In a conventional data spreadsheet of whatever format, each column would represent a variable, and each row, a case.

Usually, a case = an individual person, but it can also be an animal, a state, a country etc. It’s the unit on which measurements are taken. For example, in our class survey data, because the questions are answered by individual students, each student is a case. But if I have a dataset that allows me to analyze the relationship between a country’s economic development and its fertility rate, a case = a country.

1.4.2 Data and Statistics

Data are the original information collected from individual cases. Statistics are the summaries of data in one way or another.

Example 1.1

The fact that your author is female is a datum. Once we know everyone’s gender, we can summarize that there are, say, 16 females in our class, and this is a statistic.

Example 1.2

In the following table, what are the data and what are the statistics?

Dropped Out Graduated Total
Boys 5 70 75
Girls 1 72 73
Total 6 142 148

1.4.3 Estimation

An estimation is an educated guess typically based on two things: factual evidence, and reasonable assumption.

Therefore, to evaluate how good an estimation is, we need to ask for the evidences and the assumptions and check each respectively.

Example 1.3

You may have read in some major media that Covid-19 shortened the US life expectancy in 2020 by 1.5 years. How reliable is this estimation? Does it mean all of us can now expect to die a year and a half earlier?

As an estimation, this number is certainly derived based on some facts and some assumptions. Since it comes from the CDC, we will presume that the facts are solid. But what are the assumptions behind this estimate, and are they reasonable?

An epidemiologist published an editorial on Wall Street Journal and pointed out that the life expectancy reported by CDC is the average length of life of a hypothetical American who, from birth to death, is exposed to the mortality rates observed in the current period. In other words, their assumption is that Covid will be killing people forever at the same rate as it did in 2020. This doesn’t strike me as a reasonable assumption. What do you think?

1.4.4 Variable

A variable is a trait or characteristic of the cases.

Variable = Vary-able, so a variable must be able to vary. It is a trait that changes from case to case.

But each of us has countless numbers of traits in which we may differ from others. Are they all variables?

In the context of research and statistics, no. When we talk about a variable in a research study, it must be a trait that is measured.

Example 1.4

In our class survey, you were asked 6 questions, from your height in inches to whether you are a dog lover or a cat lover. Each of these questions is a variable. People are expected to provide different answers to these questions, so they are traits that vary from person to person. They are also measured, in the sense that the information is collected at the individual level.

Note that when we talk about a variable, we are always talking about data, not statistics. So, whether you are a dog lover or not, this is a variable. But having 20 dog lovers in our class is NOT a variable, since it is a trait of the whole class, not of individual students.

Example 1.5

A research study was done to test an effective way to promote healthy eating among adolescents. A class of 8th graders were divided into two groups. One group got education about the effect of proper nutrition on their health. The other group learned about how healthy eating promotes social justice and environmental protection. The researchers then observed and recorded the students’ choices in the school cafeteria. Consistent with their belief, the second group made a much bigger improvement in choosing healthy foods.

What are the main variables in this study?

We know a bunch of characteristics about these students–they were in 8th grade, they got some education related to healthy eating, and finally, they were spied on their choices of food in the school cafeteria. Are they all variables?

  1. Grade, or age, is not a variable in this study. Although age could be an important factor in our eating behaviors in general, in this particular study, everyone is an 8th grader, so it is not a variable–it does not vary from case to case.

  2. What type of education they got in regards to healthy eating is one of the main variables. It varies from case to case. It is a crucial characteristic of the students (although it’s not a natural trait but a manipulated one). And it was measured–the researchers knew exactly who got what kind of education.

  3. Their choice of food is another main variable. It also varies. It is also highly relevant to the purpose of this study. And it was measured–“observed and recorded.”

  4. How about students’ socio-economic status? You can certainly argue that this would be a very important factor that could affect students’ food choice, and of course it varies from student to student, but it is not a main variable in this particular study, because we are not told that this factor was actually measured.

1.4.5 Categorical Variables and Quantitative Variables

Categorical variables are variables that are expressed in categories.

  • Some categorical variables have unordered categories, such as race, gender, academic programs, political party affiliations etc.

  • Some categorical variables have ordered categories, such as class rank, levels of education etc.

Quantitative variables are variables that are expressed in numbers.

  • Note that not all numbers are truly numbers. Consider your credit card number and social security numbers. Are they really numbers? Why?

  • Also note that many variables can be measured both categorically and quantitatively.

Example 1.6

Suppose one of the main variables in a research study is how much formal education someone has had. This can be made either a categorical variable or a quantitative variable, depending on the specific research question and the feasibility of data collection:

  • As a categorical variable, it would contain values such as “high school dropout,” “completed high school,” “some college,” “Bachelor’s degree,” “Master’s degree,” and “Doctoral degree” etc.

  • As a quantitative variable, it can be measured in number of years.

1.5 Exercises

1.5.1 Identify main variables in research summaries Grapefruit Lowers Weight

A grapefruit or two a day, along with a healthy diet, could help shrink widening waistlines. This finding comes from one of several studies on the benefits of citrus fruits presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.

The so-called grapefruit diet – which advocates mostly eating grapefruit with some protein – has been popular on and off for weight loss for years, said Dr. Ken Fujioka, director of nutrition and metabolism research at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego and lead author of a study evaluating grapefruit for weight loss. Most nutrition experts have deemed the grapefruit-and-protein regimen unhealthy, and Fujioka is not advocating any return to such a strict diet. However, his findings do suggest that a grapefruit or two each day, added to a balanced diet, might help the weight-conscious stay svelte.

In the study, Fujioka and his colleagues assigned 100 men and women who were obese to one of four groups. One group received grapefruit extract, another drank grapefruit juice with each meal, another ate half a grapefruit with each meal, while the fourth group received a placebo. “They weren’t trying to diet,” he said. “To make everyone even [on activity], all were asked to walk 30 minutes three times a week.”

At the end of 12 weeks the placebo group lost on average just under half a pound, the extract group 2.4 pounds, the grapefruit juice group 3.3 pounds, and the fresh grapefruit group 3.5 pounds.

“In this study they had one and a half grapefruits a day,” he noted. “That’s not easy to do.” And participants ate the fruit more like an orange: “They cut it in half, then into four sections, then separated the fruit from the skin.” Eating grapefruit this way is thought to yield more beneficial compounds, he explained. Exactly how grapefruit might spur weight loss isn’t known, Fujioka said, but “it appears to help insulin resistance,” which develops as people become obese.

The weight loss associated with eating grapefruit isn’t surprising to another expert familiar with the study. “Eat fruit before any meal and you will lose weight,” said Julie Upton, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman. “The fiber fills you up, and fruit has fewer calories than other foods.” One half of a grapefruit has 60 calories, no fat, and six grams of fiber. Are opioid painkillers used more widely in North America than in Europe?

A recent study has found that people who have low-risk surgery in Canada and the United States fill prescriptions for opioid painkillers at nearly seven times the rate seen in Sweden. Unjustified police shooting

Background: In the United States, police officers fatally shoot about three people per day on average, a number that’s close to the yearly totals for other wealthy nations. But data on these deadly encounters have been hard to come by. A pair of high-profile killings of unarmed black men by the police pushed this reality into the headlines in summer 2014. Since then, newspapers, enterprising individuals and the federal government have launched ambitious data-collection projects to fill the gaps and improve transparency and accountability over how police officers exercise their right to use deadly force. Research

Question: Some police shootings are justified (to protect themselves or to protect their colleagues), some are not. Are unjustified police shooting more likely to happen when the victims are minorities? Reducing the risk of dementia

A healthy lifestyle might reduce the risk of dementia — but not in people with a high genetic predisposition to the condition. Although the exact causes of dementia are unclear, scientists think that both genetics and lifestyle have a role. Silvan Licher and Kamran Ikram at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and their colleagues examined the incidence of dementia in 6,352 Dutch people aged 55 and older who were part of a long-term study. The researchers found that, among the individuals with a low genetic predisposition, those who had healthier lifestyles had a reduced risk of developing the condition. Among those with a high genetic predisposition, however, lifestyle doesn’t seem to influence dementia risks. Getting a leg up

Platform shoes are back in fashion, at least in athletics. Many of the long-distance runners at the Tokyo Olympics arrived at the starting line sporting footwear with a distinctive chunky-looking heel. It was more than a fashion statement. The new shoes offer such a big performance advantage that critics have described them as “technological doping.”

In 2016 Nike released the first version of its “Vaporfly” model, which seemed to significantly improve runners’ performance. Vaporfly and its successors have since helped athletes smash a string of records. Geoff Burns, a biomechanics expert at the University of Michigan, expects that such shoes would lead to a marathon improvement of around 90 seconds. This hypothesis is still to be tested in research. Why we love our cats and dogs

Based on surveys completed before the global pandemic, the American Pet Products Association estimated that about 85 million U.S. households owned a pet in 2019. In separate surveys conducted since the start of the pandemic, the association estimates that an additional 11 million U.S. households adopted new pets in the past year.

A systematic review from the University of Liverpool identified 17 studies that looked at the effects of pet ownership on people experiencing mental health problems. They found companion animals do improve mental well-being. Studies showed pets were especially helpful to military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and to people with depression. Resilience is in our nature

psychological research over the last few decades has shown convincingly that our default mode under adverse conditions is not vulnerability but resilience. The term resilience refers to the experience of undergoing adversity without suffering debilitating effects. The psychologists Ann Masten and Norman Garmezy, pioneers in the study of resilience, defined it as “the process of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenging or threatening circumstances.” For example, resilience is at play when at-risk children achieve school success, when people maintain their poise in an emergency, or when survivors heal from trauma.

One important factor in predicting resilience is childhood attachment. In fact, a loving bond with a capable adult has been the strongest and most consistent factor linked in research studies to resilient outcomes. For example, Masten and Garmezy found that “children who experience chronic adversity fare better or recover more successfully when they have a positive relationship with a competent adult.”

1.5.2 Practice Using R

Use the ED 101 class survey data (ED101surveySP22.csv) to complete the following tasks. (7 pts)

  1. How many categorical variables are there in this survey?
  2. Open this dataset in Rstudio.
  3. Create a table for each of the categorical variables using the following code. Copy and paste the tables as well as your code into the word document that contains the other portions of this assignment.
## gender
##  F  M 
## 14  5