write your own function

You have already used many functions up to this point. Now it’s time to write your own functions. A function takes an object x, or more, specified within the round brackets. What comes after the curly braces is what should happen with this object. Let’s take the well-known function mean as an example. We know that the mean is calculated by summing all elements in a numeric vector and then dividing by the number of elements. So instead of using mean, we can write it as sum(x)/length(x), or, in a function form:


To access this function later, you can also save it as an object in your environment:

my.mean <- function(x){sum(x)/length(x)}

For an initial test, let’s create a vector X (uppercase), then execute our function my.mean, and afterwards, use the standard mean function for comparison:

X <- c(50:100)


You can also create default settings:

my.mean <- function(x, na.rm = TRUE){
  if(na.rm == TRUE){
    sum(x, na.rm = TRUE)/length(x[!is.na(x)])
  } else {
    if(any(is.na(x) == TRUE)){
      cat("Error: you need to change your NA settings!")

X[sample(1:50, 4)] <- NA

my.mean(X, na.rm = FALSE)

In this example, the na.rm argument has a default value of TRUE by defining it in the round bracket. If you call my.mean without providing a value for na.rm, it will use the default value - and calculate the mean after excluding NA-values. If na.rm is not TRUE, the second part of the loop will be executed. Let’s have a look at a different example:

my_function <- function(x, y = 10) {
  result <- x + y

Here, our value x will be increased by 10 as long as y is not defined.

my_function(5)  # This will result in 15 (5 + 10)

However, you can still override the default value by explicitly specifying a value for y when calling the function:

my_function(5, 20)  # This will result in 25 (5 + 20)

Test what you’ve learned so far!