One very important kind of data handling is being able to extract a particular subset of the data. For instance, you might be interested only in analysing the data from one experimental condition, or you may want to look closely at the data from people over 50 years in age. To do this, the first step is getting R to extract the subset of the data corresponding to the observations that you’re interested in. In this section I’ll talk about subsetting as it applies to vectors, extending the discussion from Chapters 3 and 4. In Section 7.5 I’ll go on to talk about how this discussion extends to data frames.
This section returns to the
nightgarden.Rdata data set. If you’re reading this whole chapter in one sitting, then you should already have this data set loaded. If not, don’t forget to use the
load("nightgarden.Rdata") command. For this section, let’s ignore the
itng data frame that we created earlier, and focus instead on the two vectors
utterance (see Section 7.1 if you’ve forgotten what those vectors look like). Suppose that what I want to do is pull out only those utterances that were made by Makka-Pakka. To that end, I could first use the equality operator to have R tell me which cases correspond to Makka-Pakka speaking:
is.MP.speaking <- speaker == "makka-pakka" is.MP.speaking
##  FALSE FALSE FALSE FALSE FALSE FALSE TRUE TRUE TRUE TRUE
and then use logical indexing to get R to print out those elements of
utterance for which
is.MP.speaking is true, like so:
utterance[ is.MP.speaking ]
##  "pip" "pip" "onk" "onk"
Or, since I’m lazy, I could collapse it to a single command like so:
utterance[ speaker == "makka-pakka" ]
##  "pip" "pip" "onk" "onk"
%in%match multiple cases
A second useful trick to be aware of is the
%in% operator110. It’s actually very similar to the
== operator, except that you can supply a collection of acceptable values. For instance, suppose I wanted to keep only those cases when the utterance is either “pip” or “oo”. One simple way do to this is:
utterance %in% c("pip","oo")
##  TRUE TRUE FALSE FALSE FALSE TRUE TRUE TRUE FALSE FALSE
What this does if return
TRUE for those elements of
utterance that are either
"oo" and returns
FALSE for all the others. What that means is that if I want a list of all those instances of characters speaking either of these two words, I could do this:
speaker[ utterance %in% c("pip","oo") ]
##  "upsy-daisy" "upsy-daisy" "tombliboo" "makka-pakka" "makka-pakka"
Using negative indices to drop elements
Before moving onto data frames, there’s a couple of other tricks worth mentioning. The first of these is to use negative values as indices. Recall from Section 3.10 that we can use a vector of numbers to extract a set of elements that we would like to keep. For instance, suppose I want to keep only elements 2 and 3 from
utterance. I could do so like this:
##  "pip" "onk"
But suppose, on the other hand, that I have discovered that observations 2 and 3 are untrustworthy, and I want to keep everything except those two elements. To that end, R lets you use negative numbers to remove specific values, like so:
utterance [ -(2:3) ]
##  "pip" "onk" "ee" "oo" "pip" "pip" "onk" "onk"
The output here corresponds to element 1 of the original vector, followed by elements 4, 5, and so on. When all you want to do is remove a few cases, this is a very handy convention.
Splitting a vector by group
One particular example of subsetting that is especially common is the problem of splitting one one variable up into several different variables, one corresponding to each group. For instance, in our In the Night Garden example, I might want to create subsets of the
utterance variable for every character. One way to do this would be to just repeat the exercise that I went through earlier separately for each character, but that quickly gets annoying. A faster way do it is to use the
split() function. The arguments are:
x. The variable that needs to be split into groups.
f. The grouping variable.
What this function does is output a list (Section 4.9), containing one variable for each group. For instance, I could split up the
utterance variable by
speaker using the following command:
speech.by.char <- split( x = utterance, f = speaker ) speech.by.char
## $`makka-pakka` ##  "pip" "pip" "onk" "onk" ## ## $tombliboo ##  "ee" "oo" ## ## $`upsy-daisy` ##  "pip" "pip" "onk" "onk"
Once you’re starting to become comfortable working with lists and data frames, this output is all you need, since you can work with this list in much the same way that you would work with a data frame. For instance, if you want the first utterance made by Makka-Pakka, all you need to do is type this:
##  "pip"
Just remember that R does need you to add the quoting characters (i.e.
'). Otherwise, there’s nothing particularly new or difficult here.
However, sometimes – especially when you’re just starting out – it can be convenient to pull these variables out of the list, and into the workspace. This isn’t too difficult to do, though it can be a little daunting to novices. To that end, I’ve included a function called
importList() in the
lsr package that does this.111 First, here’s what you’d have if you had wiped the workspace before the start of this section:
## -- Name -- -- Class -- -- Size -- ## age numeric 11 ## age.breaks numeric 4 ## age.group factor 11 ## age.group2 factor 11 ## age.group3 factor 11 ## age.labels character 3 ## df data.frame 10 x 4 ## is.MP.speaking logical 10 ## itng data.frame 10 x 2 ## itng.table table 3 x 4 ## likert.centred numeric 10 ## likert.raw numeric 10 ## opinion.dir numeric 10 ## opinion.strength numeric 10 ## some.data numeric 18 ## speaker character 10 ## speech.by.char list 3 ## utterance character 10
Now we use the
importList() function to copy all of the variables within the
importList( speech.by.char, ask = FALSE)
importList() function is attempting to create new variables based on the names of the elements of the list, it pauses to check that you’re okay with the variable names. The reason it does this is that, if one of the to-be-created variables has the same name as a variable that you already have in your workspace, that variable will end up being overwritten, so it’s a good idea to check. Assuming that you type
y, it will go on to create the variables. Nothing appears to have happened, but if we look at our workspace now:
## -- Name -- -- Class -- -- Size -- ## age numeric 11 ## age.breaks numeric 4 ## age.group factor 11 ## age.group2 factor 11 ## age.group3 factor 11 ## age.labels character 3 ## df data.frame 10 x 4 ## is.MP.speaking logical 10 ## itng data.frame 10 x 2 ## itng.table table 3 x 4 ## likert.centred numeric 10 ## likert.raw numeric 10 ## makka.pakka character 4 ## opinion.dir numeric 10 ## opinion.strength numeric 10 ## some.data numeric 18 ## speaker character 10 ## speech.by.char list 3 ## tombliboo character 2 ## upsy.daisy character 4 ## utterance character 10
we see that there are three new variables, called
upsy.daisy. Notice that the
importList() function has converted the original character strings into valid R variable names, so the variable corresponding to
"makka-pakka" is actually
makka.pakka.112 Nevertheless, even though the names can change, note that each of these variables contains the exact same information as the original elements of the list did. For example:
> makka.pakka  "pip" "pip" "onk" "onk"