Defining your own functions

Mike McCann
22-23 January 2015

Functions in R: Base

We have already seen many of the basic functions that come pre-installed with R.


Functions in R: Packages

We have also seen functions that are loaded from packages.

# This will not run. tree is not loaded 
tree(formula=Species ~ . -Species, data=iris) 

install.packages("tree") # Install it 
library(tree) # Load it 

# Now it should work 
tree(formula=Species ~ . -Species, data=iris)

Functions in R: Make your own!

It is also possible to define your own functions.

This is especially important if you are going to write the same lines of code over & over again.

  • R functions are objects just like anything else.
  • By default, R function arguments are lazy, i.e., they're only evaluated if they're actually used.
  • Every call on a R object is almost always a function call.

Basic components of a function

  • The body(), the code inside the function.
  • The formals(), the “formal” argument list, which controls how you can call the function.
  • The environment(), which determines how variables referred to inside the function are found.
  • args() to list arguments.

Writing functions

# define a function, f
f <- function(x){

# call function f (argument=1)
[1] 1

Functions and Environments

Variables defined inside functions exist in a different environment than the global environment.

However, if a variabe is not defined inside a function, the function will look one level above.

Example of a function

x <- 2 # variable defined outside the function

g <- function() {
    y <- 1 # variable defined inside the function 
    c(x, y) 

[1] 2 1

Example of a "useful" function

first <- function(x, y) {
    z <- x + y 

first(5, 7)
[1] 12

What happens if you don't write return() inside the function?

Try It!

1.) Create a function that takes in two arguments, x and y, and computes x*2 * y.

2.) Create a function that takes in three arguments, and makes a vector from the result.

3.) Create a function that counts the number of matching items. Hint: use %in% to create a logical statement.

Example of a "useful" function

add <- function(a, b){
    return(a + b)

vector <- c(3,4,5,6)

add(vector[1], vector[2])
[1] 7

What does this function return?

x <- 5
f <- function() {
    y <- 10
    c(x = x, y = y)

What does this function return?

x <- 5
f <- function() {
    y <- 10
    c(x = x, y = y)
 x  y 
 5 10 

Functions with pre-defined values

subtract <- function(a=5, b=2){

[1] 3
[1] -1

Try It!

1.) Write a function that takes in a vector and multiplies the sum of the vector by 10. Return a logical statement based on whether the sum is under 1000.

2.) Write a function that calculates the mean of every column in a dataframe. Have it break gracefully if the columns are not numbers, using class(x) != “numeric”. Try your function on the iris dataset

Try It!

func3 <- function(x){
  for (i in 1:ncol(x)){
    if(class(x[,i]) != "numeric"){next}
    if(class(x[,i]) == "numeric"){
[1] 5.843333
[1] 3.057333
[1] 3.758
[1] 1.199333

Functions usually return the last value it computed

f <- function(x) {
    if (x < 10) {
    } else {
[1] 0
[1] 10