How to Generate a Sample Using the Sample Function in R

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Statistical analysis often relies on the generation of random samples from a given population for experiments, simulations, or tests. One of the most commonly used functions for this purpose in R is the sample function. This versatile function is part of R’s base package and is used for generating random samples from either a vector of one or more elements or directly from a range of elements. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the sample function, its syntax, and its multiple use-cases.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to the sample Function
  2. Syntax and Parameters
  3. Basic Usage
  4. Advanced Sampling Techniques
  5. Use Cases
  6. Working with Data Frames and Matrices
  7. Caveats and Pitfalls
  8. Practical Examples
  9. Conclusion

1. Introduction to the sample Function

The sample function is a basic yet incredibly useful function for generating random samples in R. It can be used to sample single or multiple elements, with or without replacement, and with the option of providing a probability weight for each element.

2. Syntax and Parameters

The basic syntax of the sample function is as follows:

sample(x, size, replace = FALSE, prob = NULL)
  • x: A vector of one or more elements to sample from, or a positive number to sample from 1:x.
  • size: The number of items to return.
  • replace: Should sampling be with replacement? Default is FALSE.
  • prob: A vector of probability weights for each element in x.

3. Basic Usage

Sampling from a Vector

sample(c("red", "blue", "green"), 2)

This will randomly select 2 colors from the given vector.

Sampling from a Range

sample(10, 5)

This will randomly select 5 numbers between 1 and 10.

4. Advanced Sampling Techniques

Sampling with Replacement

sample(1:10, 5, replace = TRUE)

Weighted Sampling

sample(1:3, 5, replace = TRUE, prob = c(0.1, 0.3, 0.6))

5. Use Cases


boot_sample <- function(data, n){
  sample(data, n, replace = TRUE)

Shuffle a Vector


Randomly Splitting Data

indices <- sample(1:nrow(df), nrow(df)*0.7)
train_set <- df[indices, ]
test_set <- df[-indices, ]

6. Working with Data Frames and Matrices

Random Row Sampling

# Install dplyr if you haven't
# install.packages("dplyr")

# Load dplyr

# Create a sample data frame
df <- data.frame(x = 1:10, y = 11:20)

# Sample 5 rows
sampled_df <- sample_n(df, 5)

Random Column Sampling

df[sample(ncol(df), 2)]

7. Caveats and Pitfalls

  1. Randomness: The sample function generates pseudo-random numbers, which means you should set a seed for reproducibility.
  2. Performance: For very large samples, consider the efficiency of your sampling strategy.

8. Practical Examples

Monte Carlo Simulation

mean_estimates <- replicate(1000, mean(sample(1:6, 10, replace = TRUE)))

Stratified Sampling

stratified_sample <- df %>% group_by(category) %>% sample_n(5)

9. Conclusion

The sample function in R is a versatile and powerful function for generating random samples. Whether you are performing basic random draws or complicated simulations, sample provides the flexibility and functionality to meet your needs. Its syntax is simple, but its applications are many—ranging from data splitting for machine learning to sophisticated statistical simulations. By mastering the sample function, you’ll gain a fundamental tool for statistical programming in R.

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