[R] Giving a first good impression of R to Social Scientists

Vito Ricci vito_ricci at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 12 11:50:24 CEST 2004


do you know there are several GUI for R? See:


and in particular:


R-Commander is quite like GUI of commercial softwares.
Give a look: they can help your pupils which are able
to use SPSS.
Although I prefer command line, for me is simplier.



Dear all,

in the coming Winter Semester, I will be a teaching
assistant for a course
in Survival Analysis. My job will be to do the lab
sessions. The software
used for these lab sessions will be R. Most of the
students have a
background in social sciences and the only stats
package they used so far is
most likely SPSS.
So I assume they might be quite surprised the first
time they see R ("where
is my rectangular data window?", "where do I have to
click to make a new
variable?", ...).

That is why would like to ask the experts on this list
if anyone of you has
encountered a similar experience and what you could
advise to persuade
people quickly that it is worth learning a new
I imagined to give them a short presentation about the
nice capabilities
what R can do which would be impossible or troublesome
with conventional
software like SPSS.[1] The reason is that I want to
create an atmosphere
where people have a positive attitude towards learning
a new software right
from the beginning. This would make it easier for me
and I guess also the
students learn more and faster if they have a positive
first encounter with

(Afterwards I plan to introduce them to the basics of
R with the help of
Venables/Smith/R Core Team: "An Introduction to R",
Dalgaard "Introductory
Statistics with R" and Krause/Olson "The Basics of S
and S-Plus" before
doing any survival analysis relevant exercises.)

I would appreciate any suggestions!

Thanks for your help,

[1] I originally thought to show them how easy it is
to estimate in R a
Kaplan-Meier-Survival curve in the presence of left
truncation, whereas I
have seen no possibility so far to do that in SPSS
(that could be also due
to my lack of knowledge using SPSS) but the
KM-estimator is a topic during
the course, so I can not use this example.


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