Exploratory Data Analysis: The 5-Number Summary – Two Different Methods in R

Introduction

Continuing my recent series on exploratory data analysis (EDA), today’s post focuses on 5-number summaries, which were previously mentioned in the post on descriptive statistics in this series.  I will define and calculate the 5-number summary in 2 different ways that are commonly used in R.  (It turns out that different methods arise from the lack of universal agreement among statisticians on how to calculate quantiles.)  I will show that the fivenum() function uses a simpler and more interpretable method to calculate the 5-number summary than the summary() function.  This post expands on a recent comment that I made to correct an error in the post on box plots.

> y = seq(1, 11, by = 2)
> y
[1]  1  3  5  7  9 11
> fivenum(y)
[1]  1  3  6  9 11
> summary(y)
     Min.   1st Qu.   Median    Mean     3rd Qu.    Max. 
     1.0     3.5       6.0       6.0      8.5       11.0

Why do these 2 methods of calculating the 5–number summary in R give different results?  Read the rest of this post to find out the answer!

Previous posts in this series on EDA include

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Exploratory Data Analysis: 2 Ways of Plotting Empirical Cumulative Distribution Functions in R

Introduction

Continuing my recent series on exploratory data analysis (EDA), and following up on the last post on the conceptual foundations of empirical cumulative distribution functions (CDFs), this post shows how to plot them in R.  (Previous posts in this series on EDA include descriptive statistics, box plots, kernel density estimation, and violin plots.)

I will plot empirical CDFs in 2 ways:

  1. using the built-in ecdf() and plot() functions in R
  2. calculating and plotting the cumulative probabilities against the ordered data

Continuing from the previous posts in this series on EDA, I will use the “Ozone” data from the built-in “airquality” data set in R.  Recall that this data set has missing values, and, just as before, this problem needs to be addressed when constructing plots of the empirical CDFs.

Recall the plot of the empirical CDF of random standard normal numbers in my earlier post on the conceptual foundations of empirical CDFs.  That plot will be compared to the plots of the empirical CDFs of the ozone data to check if they came from a normal distribution.

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