Before you can start working away on legal data science problems, you need to become familiar with the programming language that we will use in this course – R.
Learning a programming language is an investment. So you may ask yourself: is it really worth it? And why R and not another language?
First, learning a programming language gives you a sense of what programmers do. Most people interact with technology through beautiful user-interfaces. Yet, all this technology was built with programming code. Then, just as you do not learn how to cook by eating, you need to try coding yourself to get a sense of what it takes to run computations or to build a beautiful interface.
Second, R was chosen for this course because it enables you to work on the entire life cycle of a legal data science project in one environment – from scraping a website to conducting your analysis to producing appealing visualizations and online applications. Other coding-for-lawyers courses use Python, which is also a good choice. Keep in mind that while programming languages differ, they are based on very similar principles. So if you know how to code in R, you will find it much easier to learn Python, for example.
Finally, another reason to choose R is because of it is an open source product with an active user community. Researchers and programmers create new functionalities for R (so called “R packages”) every day. We will use such R packages in many of our lessons. Moreover, because of its active user community there are many resources available online that will help you solve any problems that you may encounter.
What we do in this lesson
We get you started. In this first lesson, you will learn about basic concepts and operations in R:
1. Basic Calculations in R
2. Data types and functions
3. Accessing and manipulating data
4. Plotting data
5. Basic string operations
If you have not worked with R before, please take the time to complete this lesson and its exercises. It will make it easier to follow the subsequent lessons.
A great book to get you started with R and its use in the humanities is:
Arnold, Taylor, and Lauren Tilton. Humanities Data in R: Exploring Networks, Geospatial Data, Images, and Text. 1st ed. 2015 edition. Cham: Springer, 2015.