# Lesson 3. Understand the Vector Data Type in R and Classes Including Strings, Numbers and Logicals - Data Science for Scientists 101

## Learning Objectives

At the end of this activity, you will be able to:

• Understand the structure of and be able to create a vector object in R.

## What You Need

You need R and RStudio to complete this tutorial. Also we recommend that you have an earth-analytics directory set up on your computer with a /data directory within it.

## Vectors and Data Types

A vector is the most common data structure in R. A vector is defined as a group of values, which most often are either numbers or characters. You can assign this list of values to an object or variable, just like you can for a single value. For example you can create a vector of animal weights:

weight_g <- c(50, 60, 65, 82)
weight_g
##  50 60 65 82


A vector can also contain characters:

animals <- c("mouse", "rat", "dog")
animals
##  "mouse" "rat"   "dog"


There are many functions that allow you to inspect the content of a vector. length() tells you how many elements are in a particular vector:

length(weight_g)
##  4
length(animals)
##  3


## Vector Data Types

An important feature of a vector is that all of the elements are the same data type. The function class() shows us the class (the data type) of an object:

class(weight_g)
##  "numeric"
class(animals)
##  "character"


The function str() shows us the structure of the object and the elements it contains. str() is a really useful function when working with large and complex objects:

str(weight_g)
##  num [1:4] 50 60 65 82
str(animals)
##  chr [1:3] "mouse" "rat" "dog"


You can add elements to your vector by using the c() function:


# add the number 90 to the end of the vector
weight_g <- c(weight_g, 90)

# add the number 30 to the beginning of the vector
weight_g <- c(30, weight_g)
weight_g
##  30 50 60 65 82 90


In the examples above, you saw 2 of the 6 atomic vector types that R uses:

1. "character" and
2. "numeric"

These are the basic data tpes that all R objects are built from. The other 4 are:

• "logical" for TRUE and FALSE (the boolean data type)
• "integer" for integer numbers (e.g. 2L, the L indicates to R that it’s an integer)
• "complex" to represent complex numbers with real and imaginary parts (e.g., 1+4i) and that’s all we’re going to say about them
• "raw" that we won’t discuss further

## Data type vs. Data Structure

Vectors are one of the many data structures that R uses. Other important ones include: lists (list), matrices (matrix), data frames (data.frame) and factors (factor). You will look at data.frames when you open your boulder_precip data in the next lesson!

## Optional Challenge Activity

• Question: What happens when you create a vector that contains both numbers and character values? Give it a try and write down the answer.

• Question: What will happen in each of these examples? (hint: use class() to check the data type of your objects):

num_char <- c(1, 2, 3, 'a')
num_logical <- c(1, 2, 3, '2.45')
char_logical <- c('a', 'b', 'c', frog)
tricky <- c(1, 2, 3, '4')

• Question: Why do you think it happens?

• Question: Can you draw a diagram that represents the hierarchy of the data types?

## Subsetting Vectors

If you want to extract one or several values from a vector, you must provide one or several indices in square brackets. For instance:

animals <- c("mouse", "rat", "dog", "cat")
animals
##  "rat"
animals[c(3, 2)]
##  "dog" "rat"


Data tip: R indexes start at 1. Programming languages like Fortran, MATLAB, and R start counting at 1, because that’s what human beings typically do. Languages in the C family (including C++, Java, Perl, and Python) count from 0 because that’s simpler for computers to do.

## Subset Vectors

You can subset vectors too. For instance, if you wanted to select only the values above 50:

weight_g > 50    # will return logicals with TRUE for the indices that meet the condition
##  FALSE FALSE  TRUE  TRUE  TRUE  TRUE
## so you can use this to select only the values above 50
weight_g[weight_g > 50]
##  60 65 82 90


You can combine multiple tests using & (both conditions are true, AND) or | (at least one of the conditions is true, OR):

weight_g[weight_g < 30 | weight_g > 50]
##  60 65 82 90
weight_g[weight_g >= 30 & weight_g == 21]
## numeric(0)


When working with vectors of characters, if you are trying to combine many conditions it can become tedious to type. The function %in% allows you to test if a value is found in a vector:

animals <- c("mouse", "rat", "dog", "cat")
animals[animals == "cat" | animals == "rat"] # returns both rat and cat
##  "rat" "cat"
animals %in% c("rat", "cat", "dog", "duck")
##  FALSE  TRUE  TRUE  TRUE
animals[animals %in% c("rat", "cat", "dog", "duck")]
##  "rat" "dog" "cat"


## Optional Challenge

• Can you figure out why "four" > "five" returns TRUE?