Lesson 5: Finding HelpLesson 5: Finding Help
One of my vivid memories of learning to use R was the frustration of trying to find help when things went wrong: confusing error messages, long help files, and trying to find help online. In this chapter we'll introduce R help files and discuss strategies for finding help online.
One thing to remember - R is not like much software that is designed to do specific tasks - R is a language, an environment for analysis, etc. As a result it is often the case that there is more than one way to do almost anything in R. This means that when we ask "how do I do X in R" we have to figure out how which of several methods makes the most sense. We'll work with Chapter 5 of Essential R.
- Access the help files in R
- Use the example code from help files
- Use RSeek to search for help on topics
Data and R Code Files
There is no code file for this chapter. See the exercises at the end of Chapter 5 for more practice.
5.1 - Understanding R Help Files5.1 - Understanding R Help Files
In this video we'll look at how R help files are structured.
5.2 - Using R Help Files5.2 - Using R Help Files
Here we'll discuss the example code in help files, the "see also" links, and the use of the "??" search.
5.3 - Getting Help Online: Rseek.org5.3 - Getting Help Online: Rseek.org
The help system in R is quite good when you know the function that you need help on, or a related function. The more difficult situation arises when you really don't know which function you need. At such times Rseek is usually extremely helpful.
Note that the page is basically blank until you search, at which point the tabs for categories of results will appear.
5.4 - Getting Help Online: Using Help Forums5.4 - Getting Help Online: Using Help Forums
Probably the feature of Rseek that I use most often is the "Issues" tab which lists search results on help forums (many of which are hosted by the r-project). Here we'll introduce these and also discuss posting to the R mailing lists if you should need to. (Based on my experience this is somewhat unlikely - I almost always am able to find an answer to my question or a similar question in the forums). Please do note the requirements for posting to the mailing lists, or anywhere else (including Piazza), if you follow the posting guidelines carefully, you make it easy for people to help you.