Data Manipulation in R

Data Manipulation in R

Data Manipulation in R

Course description

In this course, you will learn how to easily perform data manipulation using R software. We’ll cover the following data manipulation techniques:

  • filtering and ordering rows,
  • renaming and adding columns,
  • computing summary statistics

We’ll use mainly the popular dplyr R package, which contains important R functions to carry out easily your data manipulation. In the final section, we’ll show you how to group your data by a grouping variable, and then compute some summary statitistics on each subset. You will also learn how to chain your data manipulation operations.

At the end of this course, you will be familiar with data manipulation tools and approaches that will allow you to efficiently manipulate data.

Required R packages

We recommend to install the tidyverse packages, which include the dplyr package (for data manipulation) and additional R packages for easily reading (readr), transforming (tidyr) and visualizing (ggplot2) datasets.

  • Install:
  • Load the tidyverse packages, which also include the dplyr package:

Demo datasets

We’ll use mainly the R built-in iris data set, which we start by converting into a tibble data frame (tbl_df) for easier data analysis. tbl_df data object is a data frame providing a nicer printing method, useful when working with large data sets.

my_data <- as_tibble(iris)
## # A tibble: 150 x 5
##   Sepal.Length Sepal.Width Petal.Length Petal.Width Species
##          <dbl>       <dbl>        <dbl>       <dbl> <fct>  
## 1          5.1         3.5          1.4         0.2 setosa 
## 2          4.9         3            1.4         0.2 setosa 
## 3          4.7         3.2          1.3         0.2 setosa 
## 4          4.6         3.1          1.5         0.2 setosa 
## 5          5           3.6          1.4         0.2 setosa 
## 6          5.4         3.9          1.7         0.4 setosa 
## # ... with 144 more rows

Note that, the type of data in each column is specified. Common types include:

  • int: integers
  • dbl: double (real numbers),
  • chr: character vectors, strings, texts
  • fctr: factor,
  • dttm: date-times (date + time)
  • lgl: logical (TRUE or FALSE)
  • date: dates

Main data manipulation functions

There are 8 fundamental data manipulation verbs that you will use to do most of your data manipulations. These functions are included in the dplyr package:

  • filter(): Pick rows (observations/samples) based on their values.
  • distinct(): Remove duplicate rows.
  • arrange(): Reorder the rows.
  • select(): Select columns (variables) by their names.
  • rename(): Rename columns.
  • mutate() and transmutate(): Add/create new variables.
  • summarise(): Compute statistical summaries (e.g., computing the mean or the sum)

It’s also possible to combine each of these verbs with the function group_by() to operate on subsets of the data set (group-by-group).

All these functions work similarly as follow:

  • The first argument is a data frame
  • The subsequent arguments are comma separated list of unquoted variable names and the specification of what you want to do
  • The result is a new data frame

You will learn how to use these functions, as well as, how to chain your data manipulation operations using the pipe operator (%>%).

Note that, dplyr package allows to use the forward-pipe chaining operator (%>%) for combining multiple operations. For example, x %>% f is equivalent to f(x). Using the pipe (%>%), the output of each operation is passed to the next operation. This makes R programming easy.


  1. This tutorial describes how to subset or extract data frame rows based on certain criteria. Additionally, we'll describe how to subset a random number or fraction of rows. You will also learn how to remove rows with missing values in a given column.
  2. Compute Summary Statistics in R

    This tutorial introduces how to easily compute statistcal summaries in R using the dplyr package. You will learn, how to compute summary statistics for ungrouped data, as well as, for data that are grouped by one or multiple variables.

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