Data Types (Structures) in R

Data Types

Unlike SAS and SPSS, R has several different data types (structures) including vectors, factors, data frames, matrices, arrays, and lists. The data frame is most like a dataset in SAS.

1. Vectors

A vector is an object that contains a set of values called its elements.

Numeric vector
x <- c(1,2,3,4,5,6)
The operator <–  is equivalent to "=" sign.

Character vector
State <- c("DL", "MU", "NY", "DL", "NY", "MU")
To calculate frequency for State vector, you can use table function.

To calculate mean for a vector, you can use mean function.
Since the above vector contains a NA (not available) value, the mean function returns NA.

To calculate mean for a vector excluding NA values, you can include na.rm = TRUE parameter in mean function. 

You can use subscripts to refer elements of a vector.

Convert a column "x" to numeric
data$x = as.numeric(data$x)

2. Factors

R has a special data structure to store categorical variables. It tells R that a variable is nominal or ordinal by making it a factor.

Simplest form of the factor function : 

Ideal form of the factor function : 

The factor function has three parameters:
  1. Vector Name 
  2. Values (Optional)
  3. Value labels (Optional)

Convert a column "x" to factor
data$x = as.factor(data$x)
3. Matrices

All values in columns in a matrix must have the same mode (numeric, character, etc.) and the same length.

The cbind function joins columns together into a matrix. See the usage below

The numbers to the left side in brackets are the row numbers. The form [1, ] means that it is row number one and the blank following the comma means that R has displayed all the columns.

To see dimension of the matrix, you can use dim function.

To see correlation of the matrix, you can use cor function.

You can use subscripts to identify rows or columns.

4. Arrays

Arrays are similar to matrices but can have more than two dimensions.

5. Data Frames

A data frame is similar to SAS and SPSS datasets. It contains variables and records.
It is more general than a matrix, in that different columns can have different modes (numeric, character, factor, etc.

The data.frame function is used to combine variables (vectors and factors) into a data frame.

6. Lists

A list allows you to store a variety of  objects.

You can use subscripts to select the specific component of the list.

How to know data type of a column

1. 'class' is a property assigned to an object that determines how generic functions operate with it.  It is not a mutually exclusive classification.

2. 'mode' is a mutually exclusive classification of objects according to their basic structure.  The 'atomic' modes are numeric, complex, charcter and logical.

> x <- 1:16
> x <- factor(x)

> class(x)
[1] "factor"

> mode(x)
[1] "numeric"
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About Author:
Deepanshu Bhalla

Deepanshu founded ListenData with a simple objective - Make analytics easy to understand and follow. He has over 10 years of experience in data science. During his tenure, he worked with global clients in various domains like Banking, Insurance, Private Equity, Telecom and HR.

25 Responses to "Data Types (Structures) in R"
  1. Congrats, Mr. Bhalla. This post was very clear, straight and useful. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    1. Thank you for your appreciation. Glad you found it useful.

    2. I agree with Prof. Luiz. It is the best tutorial I came across uptill now! Congrats... and heartfelt thanks!

  2. Awesome excllent bro...Thanks alot really Thanks..

  3. this is really Awesome post Bro !!! If possible can you add some case studies will be really helpful to get some practical knowledge

  4. This is very useful who needs supports to stand..

  5. Thanku so much Please share practice exercises as well at the end of each session to practice

  6. great, easy to understand for user who is starting yet!
    I have knowledge of R and looking for visulization of data sets, if have any specific link, request to you, please share it to me.

  7. what is the correlation? can you please explain that part

  8. Such great content..

    Could you please specify what's the difference between List and Array then?
    Does an array cannot contain any of the things such as 'vectors', 'factors', etc?
    Can vector be 2-dimensional?


  9. Thanks a lot for this great R tutorial!

  10. your tutorial is very helpful to me . easy to understand . congratulations sir

  11. Hi, your resources are very useful and simple to understand.

  12. simple and easy to understand.

  13. absolutely what i was looking for..thank you.


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