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introduce read.table( in lesson one (Analyzing Patient Data) #302

paddytobias opened this Issue Oct 25, 2017 · 5 comments


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paddytobias commented Oct 25, 2017

First objective in lesson one (Analyzing Patient Data) is "Read tabular data from a file into a program" however the exercise only addresses tabular data in a CSV format using read.csv(. This has the potential to convey to learners that R can only deal with CSV tabular data.

Perhaps it would be good to introduce read.table( with sep = "," as an alternative and add a note on how other value separated formats might be handled.


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Jerry-Lai commented Oct 31, 2017

Good Call!

There is a step towards your suggestion in the data carpentry materials, by introducing the difference between read.csv and read.csv2, but the inclusion of sep = "," would be better actually.

It might also be helpful to include a small section on reading foreign data into R (i.e., .Stata, SPSS and SAS) and write / export data.frame into a foreign format.


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Arsh-07 commented Dec 6, 2017

Great comment.

The read.csv function can be misleading to complete novice learners that R can read only csv file. Perhaps, they should be introduced to the read.table first and use correct arguments and explain that R can import many types of file from different platform as well. Explaining the field separation character ("sep") and that the default one in read.table is a white space and if the user do not specify any "sep" the file will be read and imported wrongly in R- hence leading to incorrect analysis. Maybe the read.table should be explain more in depth and that read.csv, read.delim, read.csv2 are in a way subset of read.table function in R with specific in built arguments.


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katrinleinweber commented Feb 1, 2018

Hello y'all :-) I'm open to PRs about this. However, counter-argument: teaching CSV specifically could support the understanding, that tidy data files of a defined format are sooo much easier to handle than messy tables.


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KlausVigo commented Apr 24, 2018

I agree with @katrinleinweber here,
and it should not really a problem as read.table and read.csv share the same help file.
In fact the function definition of read.csv is just a function call to read.table, just changing some of the default parameters.

> read.csv
function (file, header = TRUE, sep = ",", quote = "\"", dec = ".", 
    fill = TRUE, comment.char = "", ...) 
read.table(file = file, header = header, sep = sep, quote = quote, 
    dec = dec, fill = fill, comment.char = comment.char, ...)

This is even one of the simplest and shortest functions, only ... argument will need some explanation.


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katrinleinweber commented Apr 25, 2018

Since there is also a discussion about introducing the tidyverse with read_csv() (#276), I would like to request your opinions there.

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