R Is Not So Hard! A Tutorial, Part 6: Basic Plotting in R

by David Lillis, Ph.D.

In Part 6, let’s look at basic plotting in R.  Try entering the following three commands together (the semi-colon allows you to place several commands on the same line).

x <- seq(-4, 4, 0.2) ;  y <- 2*x^2 + 4*x - 7
plot(x, y)


This is a very basic plot, but we can do much better. Let’s build a nicer plot in several steps.

plot(x, y, pch = 16, col = "red")


The argument pch = 16 gave us solid circles, while col = “red” coloured those circles red.

Now try:

plot(x, y, pch = 16, col = "red", xlim = c(-8, 8), ylim = c(-20, 50),
main = "MY PLOT", xlab = "X VARIABLE" , ylab = "Y VARIABLE")

You can see what the main argument and the xlim and ylim arguments achieved. Now try:

plot(x, y, pch = 16, col = "red", xlim = c(-8, 8), ylim = c(-20, 50),
main = "MY PLOT", xlab = "X VARIABLE" , ylab = "Y VARIABLE")
lines(x, y)


Note that the lines command is used after the plot command. Now enter the following syntax.

abline(h = 0)
abline(v = 0)
abline(-10, 2) # Draws a line of intercept -10 and slope 2.
text(4, 20, "TEXT") # Now your text is located at the point (4, 20) on your plot.

legend(-8,36,"This is my Legend")

Your legend is now centered on the point (-4, 36)


The rug command indicates the location of points on the horizontal axis. Here is the final plot:


That wasn’t so hard! In blog 7 we will look at some more sophisticated plotting techniques in R.

About the Author:
David Lillis has taught R to many researchers and statisticians. His company, Sigma Statistics and Research Limited, provides both on-line instruction and face-to-face workshops on R, and coding services in R. David holds a doctorate in applied statistics.

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