[R] Re: Thanks Frank, setting graph parameters, and why social scientists don't use R

Roger D. Peng rpeng at jhsph.edu
Tue Aug 17 15:14:00 CEST 2004

I'm just curious, but how do social scientists, or anyone else for 
that matter, learn SPSS, besides taking a class?


david_foreman at doctors.org.uk wrote:
> First, many thanks to Frank Harrell for once again helping me out.
> This actually relates to the next point, which is my contribution
> to the 'why don't social scientists use R' discussion.  I am a
> hybrid social scientist(child psychiatrist) who trained on SPSS.
> Many of my difficulties in coming to terms with R have been to do
> with trying to apply the logic underlying SPSS, with dire results.
> You do not want to know how long I spent looking for a 'recode'
> command in R, to change factor names and classes.....
> I think the solution is to combine a graphical interface that
> encourages command line use (such as Rcommander) with the
> analyse(this) paradigm suggested, but also explaining how one can
> a) display the code on a separate window ('page' is only an obvious
> command once you know it), and b) how one can then save one's
> modification, make it generally available, and not overwrite the
> unmodified version (again, thanks, Frank).  Finally, one would need
> to change the emphasis in basic statistical teaching from 'the
> right test' to 'the right model'.  That should get people used to
> R's logic.
> If a rabbit starts to use R, s/he is likely to head for the help
> files associated with each function, which can assume that the
> reader can make sense of gnomic utterances like "Omit 'var' to
> impute all variables, creating new variables in 'search' position
> 'where'".  I still don't know what that one means (as I don't
> understand search positions, or why they're important).  This can
> be very offputting, and could lead the rabbit to return to familiar
> SPSS territory.
> Finally, friendlier error messages would also help. It took me 3
> days, and opening every function I could, to work out that
> '...cannot find function xxx.data.frame...' meant that MICE was
> unable to make a polychotomous logistic imputation model converge
> for the variable immediately preceding it.
> I am now off to the help files and FAQs to find out how to change
> graph parameters, as the plot.mids function in MICE a) doesn't
> allow one to select a subset of variables, and b) tells me that the
> graph it wants to produce on the whole of my 26 variable dataset is
> too big to fit on the (windows) plotting device.  Unless anyone
> wants to tell me how/where? (which of course is why, in the end, R
> is EASIER to use than SPSS)

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