R is an open-source package/language/environment for conducting statistical analyses and creating graphical displays of data. R’s power, flexibility and price (it is free) likely contibute to its popularity among researchers across scientific disciplines. Users around the world are consistently writing new programs, called packages, to carry out data anlaytic tasks that range from very simple to exceedingly complex. If there is a statistical method, somebody has written an R program to carry it out.
At the same time, R can be rather intimidating to new users. It installs as little more than a command prompt (though graphical interfaces do exist), so users must be able to figure out enough of the language to read in a data set and carry out some basic analysis. Here is how R opens on a Mac:
Generally speaking, there is no R system file like a .sav file in PASW/SPSS or a .dta file in Stata. However, R can read data files that have been saved in these formats.
R can be downloaded from CRAN: The Comprehensive R Archive Network. Precompiled versions (that is, files that are ready to be installed on a particular operating system) exist for Windows, MacOS X, and several different flavors of Linux. Simply download the respective file (for Windows, click on the link for the base distribution) and install like any other program.
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