[R] Research Notes

Marc Schwartz marc_schwartz at comcast.net
Tue Apr 22 15:53:24 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?

For general file organization, I would echo the recommendation to 
consider a version control system such as Subversion:


which is what I use for all R code, data files and related electronic 
storage. There are various GUI's, which can be used for interaction, if 
you don't like the CLI approach. There is also an integration of svn 
into Emacs:


if you are using Emacs/ESS for R.

For simple reviews of the content of the repository, there are also 
applications such as Trac:


which provide a browser based interface to the repository and also 
provide basic project management features such as timelines, roadmaps 
and a Wiki capability for misc notes/tasks.

 From a more general perspective, the "Getting Things Done" approach 
(aka GTD) has become fairly popular as a means to manage tasks:


There are various applications available that implement aspects of the 
methodology. Here again, if you might be using Emacs/ESS for R related 
work, there is Org Mode:


Ultimately, you need to decide what approach you want to take, identify 
the tools that will enable you to organize yourself in a framework that 
you can work within and then stick with it. It is a behavioral change, 
so it will be "uncomfortable" at first, but like R itself, the 
investment in time is well worth it in the long term.


Marc Schwartz

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