[R] Help on getting help from manuals

Claudia Beleites cbeleites at units.it
Fri Mar 12 13:29:46 CET 2010

ManInMoon wrote:
> Hi,
> A number of people have suggested "I read the manuals"...
> Could someone help me by telling me where the primary start point is please?
In R, type
help.start ()
this should open a browser window with links to
- the packages
- the manuals
- a search engine
Please note: this is written in section 1.7 "Getting help with functions and 
features" of Introduction to R
In the same section, you learn about

Note also:
? help
leads you to the man page describing the help system. In section "see also" you 
find a list of other useful commands to find help

If you look them up and look a again what alternatives they suggest and actually 
try them out (again with topic "help") you will come across all informations 
about finding help on R topics that is written in this email.

- There also exists apropos ().
- In addition, e.g. reading this mailing list, you learn about the sos package.
- You can also use the internet resources: on r-project.org -> manuals

- I personally use a lot:
http://finzi.psych.upenn.edu/cgi-bin/namazu.cgi (which is where RSiteSearch () 
gets you). You can nicely decide where to search: documentation of R and CRAN 
packages, and/or the mailing list archives.

Homework try out & read the results of:
RSiteSearch ("help")

> For example, I am interested in writing functions with variable number of
> arguments - where should I start to look?
> "An introduction to R" only show a brief example - with no pointer to where
> to find further data.
> I can't do ?xxx from R console in most cases - as I don't know what the
> function name is that I am looking for!!!
Then do
???xxx (needs sos)
RSiteSearch ("xxx")
apropos ("xxx")
which you could have found out by reading
? help

> People have helped me find "substitute" to get some metadata out - BUT how
> could I have found that without guidance from nice people in Nabble?
> Any help on this very much appreciated.

Sometimes it _is_ difficult to find the correct search terms.
However, I think that people in this list will appreciate if you
- show that you did search before asking, and also tell then with which terms 
you did the search
- particularly for questions about the meaning of commands:
   Try them out!
   Put the command into pieces and look what each piece does
- people will appreciate if you ask what the correct search terms are for your 
problem (as opposed to ask them doing your "homework")
   Learning R is learning a language. Including vocabulary (i.e. terms for the 
different concepts).
   Asking for help with searching is like asking "How do you say in R for 
concept xyz?" instead of "Could anyone do the translation I got as homework?"



Claudia Beleites
Dipartimento dei Materiali e delle Risorse Naturali
Università degli Studi di Trieste
Via Alfonso Valerio 6/a
I-34127 Trieste

phone: +39 0 40 5 58-37 68
email: cbeleites at units.it

More information about the R-help mailing list