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Curb Cuts, Universal Design, and the Creation of a Welcoming R Community

April 9th, 2019

In 1971, the city council of Berkeley, California authorized the construction of curb cuts at fifteen high-traffic street corners. This came after years of protests by disability rights activists, who argued that sidewalks without curb cuts were discriminatory because those in wheelchairs could not traverse them. After these curb cuts were built, people began to realize that they helped not only those in wheelchairs, but everyone. As Deborah Kaplan told the podcast 99 Percent Invisible , What...

R's Killer Feature: RMarkdown

March 29th, 2019

Recently I've been talking with people considering learning R about RMarkdown. In my experience, when people think about switching to R, they often think about it as a direct replacement for the tool they currently use (i.e. Excel, SPSS, SAS, Stata, etc.). R can do everything that these tools do, of course, but RMarkdown is one of the features that is most likely to fundamentally transform their work. When I try to explain RMarkdown to people, they often struggle a) to understand what it is ,...

My R Journey: Dana Wanzer

March 25th, 2019

Dana Wanzer is an evaluation consultant currently finishing her PhD in Evaluation and Applied Research Methods at Claremont Graduate University. This fall she’ll be starting a new position as an Assistant Professor of Psychology in Evaluation Research at the University of Wisconsin Stout. I’ve gotten to know Dana over the last couple years through as she has learned R. It’s been enjoyable to have someone to talk to about some of the struggles of learning R as well as the mind-blowing moments...

Reproducibility for the Rest of Us

January 28th, 2019

When I first heard that one of the benefits of using R was reproducibility, I was confused. As a PhD anthropologist who has worked for the last several years in the world of program evaluation , I assumed reproducibility meant scientists in labs being able to rerun other scientists' studies in order to check that they hadn't made up their results. Reproducibility seemed interesting, but entirely irrelevant to me. Boy, was I wrong. Reproducibility means something far broader than I previously...

I "only" use R for descriptive stats — and that's OK

December 3rd, 2018

I have a confession: the only statistics I do in R are descriptive statistics . I have only very occasionally used R for t tests, chi square, linear regression, or other inferential stats. Why, you might be wondering, would I use software designed by and for statisticians, data scientists, and other folks on the quantitative end of the spectrum if I'm using it for the types of analyses most people do in Excel? A complete answer to this question requires some background. The daily R-bloggers...

Making Small Multiples in R

September 17th, 2018

Small multiples are one of the data viz tricks that experienced information designers LOVE. Ann Emery uses them: “My favorite part of data visualization workshops? The airports. Kidding. Watching jaws drop when folks are introduced to small multiples layouts for the first time. Definitely!” Stephanie Evergreen writes that “small multiples version[s] make things approximately a billion times easier” to understand. Andy Kirk describes himself as “fully paid-up member of the small multiples fan...

Never roll that ball of yarn twice

August 21st, 2018

Does your workflow look anything like this? Receive data Import data to SPSS Do data cleaning and analysis in SPSS Export data to Excel Make figures in Excel Copy figures from Excel to Word Write your report This, or some slight variation on it, is the workflow than many of us in evaluation use. It’s mostly fine … until it’s not. Has this ever happened to you? You go through steps one through seven, only to realize that you made a mistake at step three. So, you have to go back to SPSS, redo...

R Handles the Beast and the Beauty

July 1st, 2018

R is the Swiss army knife of data tools. It can handle the work of importing, cleaning, and wrangling data (the beast ). And it can also make some of the most attractive graphs you've ever seen (the beauty ). The Beast: Importing Data One concern that users considering R sometimes have is: how will I work with all of the data I currently have in Excel, SPSS, or some other proprietary format? R handles the beast that is importing data with ease. There are packages (that is, add-ons designed to...

The Life-Changing Magic of R

June 1st, 2018

Many people come to R for one simple reason: it's free. That's one reason why both of us started using it. But as people use R, they come to appreciate its power. Here's an example: have you ever spent time using hlookups and vlookups to work with multiple columns in Excel. Was it a pain? Of course it was! Well, R makes this a million times easier. Check out this short video on using join functions in R. Package of the month: skimr When you do data analysis, one of the first things you need...