Getting Help With Functions In R Programming

In our previous articles we described how to install and start using R/RStudio. We also provide the essentials of R programming.

Here, we’ll describe how to get help about a specific function in R

Getting help on a specific function

To read more about a given function, for example mean, the R function help() can be used as follow:


Or use this:


The output look like this:

Getting help in R

If you want to see some examples of how to use the function, type this: example(function_name).


Note that, typical R help files contain the following sections:

  • Title
  • Description: a short description of what the function does.
  • Usage: the syntax of the function.
  • Arguments: the description of the arguments taken by the function.
  • Value: the value returned by the function
  • Examples: provide examples on how to use the function

General help

If you want to read the general documentation about R, use the function help.start():


The output is a web page, on most R installations, which can be browsed by clicking the hyperlinks.

Getting help in R, help.start


  • apropos(): returns a list of object, containing the pattern you searched, by partial matching. This is useful when you don’t remember exactly the name of the function:
# Returns the list of object containing "med"
[1] ".__C__namedList" "elNamed"         "elNamed<-"       "median"          "median.default" 
[6] "medpolish"       "runmed"         
  • (alternatively ??): Search for documentation matching a given character in different ways. It returns a list of function containing your searched term with a short description of the function."mean")
# Or use this


This analysis has been performed using R software (ver. 3.2.3).

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