Resources for Learning Data Manipulation in R, SAS and Microsoft Excel

I had the great pleasure of speaking to the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Simon Fraser University on last Friday to share my career advice with its students and professors.  I emphasized the importance of learning skills in data manipulation during my presentation, and I want to supplement my presentation by posting some useful resources for this skill.  If you are new to data manipulation, these are good guides for how to get started in R, SAS and Microsoft Excel.

For R, I recommend Winston Chang’s excellent web site, “Cookbook for R“.  It has a specific section on manipulating data; this is a comprehensive list of the basic skills that every data analyst and statistician should learn.

For SAS, I recommend the UCLA statistical computing web page that is adapted from Oliver Schabenberger’s web site.

For Excel, I recommend Excel Easy, a web site that was started at the University of Amsterdam in 2010.  It is a good resource for learning about Excel in general, and there is no background required.  I specifically recommend the “Functions” and “Data Analysis” sections.

A blog called teachr has a good list of Top 10 skills in Excel to learn.

I like to document tips and tricks for R and SAS that I like to use often, especially if I struggled to find them on the Internet.  I encourage you to check them out from time to time, especially in my “Data Analysis” category.

If you have any other favourite resources for learning data manipulation or data analysis, please share them in the comments!

Career Seminar at Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Simon Fraser University: 1:30 – 2:20 pm, Friday, February 20, 2015

I am very pleased to be invited to speak to the faculty and students in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Simon Fraser University on this upcoming Friday.  I look forward to sharing my career advice and answering questions from the students about how to succeed in a career in statistics.  If you will attend this seminar, please feel free to come and say “Hello”!

Eric Cai - Official Head Shot

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The advantages of using count() to get N-way frequency tables as data frames in R

Introduction

I recently introduced how to use the count() function in the “plyr” package in R to produce 1-way frequency tables in R.  Several commenters provided alternative ways of doing so, and they are all appreciated.  Today, I want to extend that tutorial by demonstrating how count() can be used to produce N-way frequency tables in the list format – this will magnify the superiority of this function over other functions like table() and xtabs().

 

2-Way Frequencies: The Cross-Tabulated Format vs. The List-Format

To get a 2-way frequency table (i.e. a frequency table of the counts of a data set as divided by 2 categorical variables), you can display it in a cross-tabulated format or in a list format.

In R, the xtabs() function is good for cross-tabulation.  Let’s use the “mtcars” data set again; recall that it is a built-in data set in Base R.

> y = xtabs(~ cyl + gear, mtcars)
> y
          gear
 cyl      3     4     5
 4        1     8     2
 6        2     4     1
 8        12    0     2

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How to Get the Frequency Table of a Categorical Variable as a Data Frame in R

Introduction

One feature that I like about R is the ability to access and manipulate the outputs of many functions.  For example, you can extract the kernel density estimates from density() and scale them to ensure that the resulting density integrates to 1 over its support set.

I recently needed to get a frequency table of a categorical variable in R, and I wanted the output as a data table that I can access and manipulate.  This is a fairly simple and common task in statistics and data analysis, so I thought that there must be a function in Base R that can easily generate this.  Sadly, I could not find such a function.  In this post, I will explain why the seemingly obvious table() function does not work, and I will demonstrate how the count() function in the ‘plyr’ package can achieve this goal.

The Example Data Set – mtcars

Let’s use the mtcars data set that is built into R as an example.  The categorical variable that I want to explore is “gear” – this denotes the number of forward gears in the car – so let’s view the first 6 observations of just the car model and the gear.  We can use the subset() function to restrict the data set to show just the row names and “gear”.

> head(subset(mtcars, select = 'gear'))
                     gear
Mazda RX4            4
Mazda RX4 Wag        4
Datsun 710           4
Hornet 4 Drive       3
Hornet Sportabout    3
Valiant              3

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