Factors In R

Kevin Feasel



Dave Mason continues his look at R, this time covering the concept of factors:

Factor data can be nominal or ordinal. In our examples so far, it is nominal. “C”, “G”, and “F” (and “Center”, “Guard”, and “Forward” for that matter) are names that have no comparative order to each other. It’s not meaningful to say a Center is greater than a Forward or a Forward is less than a Guard (keep in mind these are position names–don’t let height cloud your thinking). If we try making a comparison, we get a warning message:

> position_factor[1] > position_factor[2]
[1] NA
Warning message:
In Ops.factor(position_factor[1], position_factor[2]) : ‘>’ not meaningful for factors

Ordinal data, on the other hand, can be compared to each other in some ranked fashion–it has order. Take bed sizes, for instance. A “Twin” bed is smaller than a “Full”, which is smaller than a “Queen”, which is smaller than a “King”. To create a factor with ordered (ranked) levels, use the ordered parameter, which is a logical flag to indicate if the levels should be regarded as ordered (in the order given).

Check it out.

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