Using R for Introductory Statistics

simpler-25These notes describe how to use R while learning introductory statistics. The purpose is to allow this fine software to be used in ”lower-level” courses where often MINITAB, SPSS, Excel, etc. are used. It is expected that the reader has had at least a pre-calculus course. It is the hope, that students shown how to use R at this early level will better understand the statistical issues and will ultimately benefit from the more sophisticated program despite its steeper “learning curve”. download-buttons-75

The benefits of R for an introductory student are

  • R is free. R is open-source and runs on UNIX, Windows and Macintosh.
  • R has an excellent built-in help system.
  • R has excellent graphing capabilities.
  • Students can easily migrate to the commercially supported S-Plus program if commercial software is desired.
  • R’s language has a powerful, easy to learn syntax with many built-in statistical functions.
  • The language is easy to extend with user-written functions.
  • R is a computer programming For programmers it will feel more familiar than others and for new computer users, the next leap to programming will not be so large.

What is R lacking compared to other software solutions?

  • It has a limited graphical interface (S-Plus has a good one). This means, it can be harder to learn at the outse
  • There is no commercial suppo (Although one can argue the international mailing list is even better)
  • The command language is a programming language so students must learn to appreciate syntax issues etc.

R is an open-source (GPL) statistical environment modeled after S and S-Plus ( The S language was developed in the late 1980s at AT&T labs. The R project was started by Robert Gentleman and Ross Ihaka of the Statistics Department of the University of Auckland in 1995. It has quickly gained a widespread audience. It is currently maintained by the R core-development team, a hard-working, international team of volunteer developers. The R project web page is the main site for information on R. At this site are directions for obtaining the software, accompanying packages and other sources of documentation.