21 Data Manipulation Task For Beginners In R

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As a data analyst, you will be working mostly with data frames. And thus, it becomes vital that you learn, understand, and practice data manipulation tasks. Here I am listing down some of the most common data manipulation tasks for you to practice and solve.

Before, we start and dig into how to accomplish tasks mentioned below. Let’s see how to access the datasets which come along with the R packages.

You can get the list of all the datasets by using data() function and to get the list of datasets belonging to a particular package use argument data(package = "MASS") function.

Print structure/dimension of dataframe

With the structure of a data frame, we mean how to check the dimension of a data frame. The total number of observations present in a data frame and things like that. This information can be extracted by using dim()and str() functions. The str() function gives much more detailed information as compared to dim() function.

# Getting number of rows and columns - dimension

# Getting more elaborate information

Getting column and row names

To print the column and row names, you can use the colnames() and rownames() function. There exist another function called names() that can get the names of the columns. Both functions return a character vector.

# Printing columns names
# Printing columns names
# Getting more elaborate information

Converting row names to columns

The function add_rownames() from dplyr can add row names as a column into the data frame. This function will add the new column at the beginning of the data frame.

# Adding row names as a column in mtcars
mtcars <- add_rownames(mtcars, "carNames")

The above task can also be accomplished by using functions like rownames() and cbind() from base R package. So let us see how one can achieve the desired output using these functions.

# Resetting the data to the original form
# Extracting row names
names <- rownames(mtcars)
#Setting the row names to NULL - deleting basically
rownames(mtcars) <- NULL
# Combining the row names back to the mtcars dataset
mtcars <- cbind(mtcars,names)

Accessing columns and rows in a data frame

A row or a column of a data frame can be accessed using either the index or name. For example,

Extract mileage data from mtcars dataset

# Using index
mtcars[, 1] # mileage is the first columns

# Using column name
mtcars[, "mpg"]

# Using dollar notation(to call by variable name)

Extract two columns – mileage and cyl from mtcars dataset

# Using index
mtcars[, c(1,2)] # mileage is the first columns

# Using column name
mtcars[, c("mpg", "cyl")]

Extract data at row level – Hornet 4 Drive from mtcars dataset

# Using index
mtcars[4, ] # Hornet 4 Drive is the fourth observation
# Using index for calling multiple rows
mtcars[c(3,4), ] # Hornet 4 Drive is the fourth observation

# Using row name
mtcars["Hornet 4 Drive",]

# Using row nams for calling multiple observations
mtcars[c("Datsun 710","Hornet 4 Drive"),]

Renaming and rearranging columns of a data frame

One can rename the columns using colnames() function. The same task can be achieved through rename() function from dplyr package in R.

# Renaming all the columns
colnames(cars) <- c("carSpeed", "distanceCovered")
# Renaming only 2nd column
colnames(cars)[2] <- "distCovered"

# Using rename() function from dplyr
iris = rename(iris, flowerSpecies = Species, SepalLength = Sepal.Length)

Columns of a data frame can be rearranged by using column names or by using column index, as shown in the code snippet.

# Checking current column names
# Reordering by using column names
cars <- cars[c("dist", "speed")]

# Reordering by using column index
cars <- cars[c(2, 1)]

How to identify missing values

You can look for missing values by column or by row. To check by column we can use describe() function from Hmisc R package or summary() function from stats R package. The describe() function returns a column called as missing, whereas summary() function indicates the presence of the missing values by NA count.

# using describe() function
# Using summary() function

Apart from these two functions you also use is.na() function along with apply() and any() function to identify if a variable contains missing value or not. If a variable contains a missing value it will return TRUE else it will return FALSE.

# Column wise missing value check
apply(mtcars, 2, function(x){any(is.na(x))})
# Row wise missing value check
apply(mtcars, 1, function(x){any(is.na(x))})

How to filter missing values

To filter missing values we can make use of is.na() function or we can also use a function named complete.cases(). Lets us see how to use these functions.

# Using is.na to get complete observations
CO2[!is.na(CO2), ]
# Using complete.cases to get complete rows
CO2[complete.cases(CO2), ]

How to impute missing values

There are many ways in which one can fill the missing values. However, in this section, we will learn how to replace missing values by mean and how to use a machine learning algorithm like KNN or Random Forest to impute the missing values.

# Filling missing values with Mean
iris$Sepal.Length[is.na(iris$Sepal.Length)] = mean(iris$Sepal.Length, na.rm=TRUE)
# alternative way is to use ifelse
iris = transform(iris, y = ifelse(is.na(Sepal.Length), mean(Sepal.Length, na.rm=TRUE), Sepal.Length))

# Using knn imputation to fill missing values
knn.impute(iris, k = 3, cat.var = 1:ncol(iris),
          to.impute = 1:nrow(iris),
          using = 1:nrow(iris))

# Using random forest to fill missing value
iris <- rfImpute(Species ~ ., iris.na)

Sorting variables in a data frame

You can sort a column in ascending or descending order. Also, one can use more than one column to sort the dataset. We will be demonstrating how to sort the data frame by using order() and arrange() functions. The arrange() function is from dplyr package in R.

# Sorting mtcars by mpg(ascen) variable - order function
# Sorting mtcars by mpg(desc) variable - order function
mtcars[order(mtcars$mpg, decreasing = TRUE),]
# we can use (-)ve sign

# Sorting by more than two variables
mtcars[order(mtcars$mpg, mtcars$cyl),]

# Using arrange function from dplyr package
arrange(mtcars, mpg) # ascending order one variable
arrange(mtcars, mpg, cyl) # ascending order two variables
arrange(mtcars, desc(mpg)) # descending order one variable

Removing duplicated values from a data frame

Duplicate values are mostly considered from a row’s perspective, but one may require to identify duplicate columns. In this example, we will see how to remove duplicated rows as well as duplicated columns.

# Adding duplicated row
CO2 <- rbind(CO2, CO2[2,])
# Removing duplicated rows
CO2[!duplicated(CO2), ]

# Adding duplicate columns for demonstration
data(CO2)# Resting the data
CO2 <- cbind(CO2, CO2[,2])
colnames(CO2)[6] <- "Type"
# Removing duplicated columns
CO2[, !duplicated(colnames(CO2))]

data(CO2) # Resting the data
CO2 <- cbind(CO2, CO2[,2])
colnames(CO2)[6] <- "Type" # naming the column
# Removing duplicated columns and keeping the last columns
CO2[, !duplicated(colnames(CO2), fromLast = TRUE)]

Renaming levels of a factor variable in a data frame

To rename levels of factor variable can be tricky but is pretty simple. First, you need to call the levels of a factor variable by using levels() function and then assign new names to the desired levels. Remember, the order of new variable names should be the same.

# Renaming Mississippi level to Miss
levels(CO2$)[2] <- "Miss"
# Renaming all the levels
levels(CO2$) <- c("Queb", "Missi") # follow the order

Generating frequency table(one-way, two-way etc)

To generate a frequency table use table() or CrossTable() function from gmodels package in R. The output of a CrossTable() functions resembels the output of ctable in SAS. The output also includes Row Totals, Column Totals, Table Total and chi-sqaure contribution information.

# Building frequency table - univariate
table(mtcars$cyl) # ingnors NA
table(mtcars$cyl, useNA = "ifany") # gives freq of NA if present
table(mtcars$cyl, useNA = "always") # always prints NA count in a table if NA is missing 0 count is considered.

# Building frequency table - Bivariate
table(mtcars$cyl, mtcars$am)
# Building frequency table - multivariate
table(mtcars$cyl, mtcars$am, mtcars$gear)

# Using crosstable function to generate contigency table
CrossTable(mtcars$cyl, mtcars$am)

Adding and deleting columns in a data frame

The addition and deletion of the new column is a part of a regular job for a data analyst. Let us see how we can add a column called time to the cars dataset by using the distance over speed formula.

# Adding new column
cars$time <- round(cars$dist/cars$speed, 1)

# Deleting a column
cars$time <- NULL

Merging, combining and appending data frames

You can merge function to combine the two dataframe in R. This function is available in the base package. Using merge function, one can get the inner, outer, left, right, and cross joins.

# Inner Join
merge(x = data1, y = data2, by = "common Variable")

# Outer join
merge(x = data1, y = data2, by = "common Variable", all = TRUE)

# Left outer join
merge(x = data1, y = data2, by = "common Variable", all.x = TRUE)

# Right outer
merge(x = data1, y = data2, by = "common Variable", all.y = TRUE)

# Cross join
merge(x = data1, y = data2, by = NULL)

Summarizing data

Many different packages in R provide a different set of functions with divergent statistics. Here is the list of functions that you can consume directly.

  • summary() function – available in basic R
  • describe() function – there are two different functions by the same name. One is available in psych package and the other is available in Hmisc package
  • fivenum() function – available in base R – stats package

Summarizing data by grouped variable

It is always a good idea to look at the data over different slices. For example, you may want to look at the average mileage of a car by cylinder variable. Below is a list of functions that we will be using to achieve the task mentioned above.

  • Using aggregate() function
  • Using tapply() function
  • Using group_by() and summary() function from dplyr package

You can use these functions to aggregate data by multiple variables as well.

# Using aggregate function
aggregate(x = mtcars$mpg, by = list(mtcars$cyl), FUN = "mean")

# Using aggregate() to group by more than one variable
aggregate(x = mtcars$mpg, by = list(mtcars$cyl, mtcars$gear), FUN = "mean")

# Using tapply function
tapply(mtcars$mpg, mtcars$cyl, mean)

# Using functions from dplyr package
# Loading library
mtcars %>%
  dplyr::group_by(cyl) %>%
    dplyr::summarize(mean_mileage = mean(mpg))

# Using multiple variables to group
mtcars %>%
  dplyr::group_by(cyl, gear) %>%
    dplyr::summarize(mean_mileage = mean(mpg))

Transforming data between long and wide format

While working on data in R, you will realize that a lot of functions expect you to pass data in the long-form. These tasks can be achieved using functions from tidyr package and rehape2 package in R.

We will first create two data frames, one with a wide format and one with the long format containing the same information.

Creating data frame with wide format

wide <- read.table(header=TRUE, text='
 subject sex control cond1 cond2
       1   M     7.9  12.3  10.7
       2   F     6.3  10.6  11.1
       3   F     9.5  13.1  13.8
       4   M    11.5  13.4  12.9 ')
# Coneverting subject variable to factor variable
wide$subject <- factor(wide$subject)

Creating data frame with long format

long <- read.table(header=TRUE, text='
 subject sex condition measurement
       1   M   control         7.9
       1   M     cond1        12.3
       1   M     cond2        10.7
       2   F   control         6.3
       2   F     cond1        10.6
       2   F     cond2        11.1
       3   F   control         9.5
       3   F     cond1        13.1
       3   F     cond2        13.8
       4   M   control        11.5
       4   M     cond1        13.4
       4   M     cond2        12.9 ')
# Coneverting subject variable to factor variable
long$subject  <- factor(long$subject)


{tidyr} package is just a new interface for the reshape2 package.

Convert the data from wide to long format.

We will be using gather() function from tidyr package to convert data from wide to long form.

# loading package

wide_to_long <- gather(wide, condition, measurement, control:cond2, factor_key=TRUE)

Convert the data from long to wide format.

We will be using spread() function from tidyr package to convert data from wide to long-form.

long_to_wide <- spread(long, condition, measurement)

Functions which can be used from reshape2 package in R are listed below:

  • melt() function – used for converting wide formate to long format
  • dcast() function – used for converting long formate to wide format

Subsetting or filtering a data frame

Although the subset of the data (based upon a condition) can be done in many different ways in R. In this chapter, we will be exploring three different approaches or say functions. For example, say you want to take a subset of CO2 data by the Treatment variable. Say you wish to create a new data frame that has all the observations belonging to a nonchilled treatment category.

# Using square brackets
sub1 <- CO2[CO2$Treatment == "nonchilled", ]

# Using subset function
sub2 <- subset(CO2, CO2$Treatment == "nonchilled")

# Using filter function from dplyr package
sub3 <- filter(CO2, Treatment == "nonchilled")

You can use logical operators to use more than one condition spread across multiple variables. For example, get the subset of data where Treatment is nonchilled, and Type is Quebec.

# Using square brackets
sub1 <- CO2[CO2$Treatment == "nonchilled" & CO2$Type == "Quebec", ]

# Using subset function
sub2 <- subset(CO2, CO2$Treatment == "nonchilled" & CO2$Type == "Quebec" )

# Using filter function from dplyr package
sub3 <- filter(CO2, Treatment == "nonchilled", CO2$Type == "Quebec")

Inspecting top and bottom rows of a data frame

You can use head() and tail() functions to inspect the top and bottom n observations. By default both these function print top 6 and bottom 6 observations. However, you can fetch data for more or less observations.

head(mtcars) # default top 6 observations
head(mtcars, 10) # prints top 10 observations
tail(mtcars) # default bottom 6 observations
tail(mtcars, 10) # prints bottom 10 observations

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