[R] Research Notes

Barry Rowlingson b.rowlingson at lancaster.ac.uk
Tue Apr 22 15:14:34 CEST 2008

Tom Chr Backer Johnsen wrote:
> I can at best say that this question is related to R.
> What has become more and more obvious to me after I started using R 
> about two years ago is that I have collected a large number of data 
> files, scripts, and workspaces (.Rdata files) in several catalogs on my 
> computer.  It is also obvious that my memory is not up to the task of 
> keeping track of everything.  Of course, this is not simply an R thing, 
> it also applies to other kinds of documents of various kinds.
> Perhaps what is needed is some type of computerized "Research notebook", 
> and I wonder if any of the readers of list have had this problem and 
> have a suggestion in respect to a solution.  Two possibilities I have 
> been sniffing at is "Instant Recall" (USD 99) and "AskSam" (much more). 
>   Which others may be useful?

  I use a thing called 'Plain Text File'...

  Basically I keep a file called 'NOTES.txt' in each project directory I 
work in and keep it updated as I work. I keep note of where data comes 
from, what I do to it, what various functions do and so on. Then I can 
use Unix command-line tools such as 'grep' and 'find' to search them.

  I wouldn't dream of using a proprietary tool with a proprietary and 
closed format for this kind of thing EVER. If you want something more 
sophisticated than my Plain Text File solution then keep a 'NOTES.tex' 
file then you can include equations and graphics. Plus it's then trivial 
to cut things out of it into your final reports and papers.

  Having a simple plain text file makes it easy to use, and if it's not 
easy you won't use it. If you have to start up a special app to note 
what you're doing then half the time you won't use it when you really 
should. Since I've always got emacs open when I'm R-ing, it's trivially 
simple to open NOTES.txt and add my comments.


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