stat 579


A practical introduction to statistical computing in R

This course is intended to provide the fundamental computational tools for analysing data. The material is selected to enable you to become proficient enough to actively implement the methods and tools in your teaching and research. This will require you to practice the material outside of class.

Learning outcomes:



The textbook that I recommend for the class is Paul Murrell's "Introduction to Data Technologies". Note: it's just a recommendation, not a requirement! This book is licensed under a Share Alike License, which makes it available electronically for you to use, as long as you do not sell it (website with pdf) (amazon).

There are a couple of other excellent books on statistical computing and specific R packages that I'd like to recommend to you:

Topics Covered

  1. Setting up our statistical working environment
    R, LaTeX, mySQL, ...
  2. Graphics
    We will make extensive use of graphics to explore data, and communicate findings
  3. Structuring and restructuring data
    An estimated 90% of our time spent on an analysis is dealing with cleaning and structuring data. We will learn about tools and techniques that help us with this.
  4. Automating Analysis
    Elementary programming skills help us to deal with repetitive tasks. We will learn about structural elements, such as logical expression, conditional structures, functions, loops, ...
  5. Miscellaneous
    random numbers and basic simulations, dealing with large data, getting data off the web.


Weekly homework: 30%. Two midterm exams: 40%. One (group) project: presentation & write-up: (5% / 25%).

To do well in this course you will need to spend 2-3 hours a week (outside of class!) with the material. The weekly homeworks are designed to encourage you to do that. For each homework you will need to revise the week's work, and synthesise some new information, from the help pages or the web. You're welcome to help each other, but I expect you to hand in individual homeworks.

I'll publish (anonymously) a few of the best answers each week so you can learn from each other. If you don't want yours to be published, please let me know.

There will also be a larger project, which you can do in groups of up to four (you'll have to sort out the groups yourself). This project will be open ended and will require a significant writeup. I will give more details as we get closer.

Academic Dishonesty

The class will follow Iowa State University’s policy on academic dishonesty. Anyone suspected of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Students Office.

Disability Accommodation

Iowa State University complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sect 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. If you have a disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, please contact (instructor name) to set up a meeting within the first two weeks of the semester or as soon as you become aware of your need. Before meeting with (instructor name), you will need to obtain a SAAR form with recommendations for accommodations from the Disability Resources Office, located in Room 1076 on the main floor of the Student Services Building. Their telephone number is 515-294-7220 or email . Retroactive requests for accommodations will not be honored.

Dead Week

This class follows the Iowa State University Dead Week guidelines as outlined in

Harassment and Discrimination

Iowa State University strives to maintain our campus as a place of work and study for faculty, staff, and students that is free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and harassment based upon race, ethnicity, sex (including sexual assault), pregnancy, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or status as a U.S. veteran. Any student who has concerns about such behavior should contact his/her instructor, Student Assistance at 515-294-1020 or email dsosas@, or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance at 515-294-7612.

Religious Accommodation

If an academic or work requirement conflicts with your religious practices and/or observances, you may request reasonable accommodations. Your request must be in writing, and your instructor or supervisor will review the request. You or your instructor may also seek assistance from the Dean of Students Office or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance.

Contact Information

If you are experiencing, or have experienced, a problem with any of the above issues, email