Project Template

A project template provides a common content structure for data analysis projects.  A template can offer several benefits:

  • Define a familiar workspace
  • Enable collaboration
  • Ensure consistency across machines and time.

The project template is simple in nature.  It has everything a good project should have to achieve repeatable research and results.

Projects in RStudio

RStudio makes it easy to create a project.  In particular, each project has its own working directory, source files, workspace settings and history.

There are 3 ways to create an RStudio project:

  • In a brand new directory
  • In an existing directory where you already have R code and data
  • By cloning a version control archive (in Git or Subversion)

For example, use the CreateProject command to start a new project (available on the RStudio global toolbar):









RStudio takes several actions when a new project is created:

  • First, it creates a project file with an .Rproj extension in the project directory. The file defines project options (discussed below);
  • Next, a hidden directory named .Rproj.user is created to store temp files;
  • Finally, the project loads into RStudio, displaying its name in the Projects toolbar.

Project Structure

The project structure of directories and files can be copied into place once a new a project Directory is created.  For example, the image defines a base project template:

The file structure is easy to create.  Download the template here:

Project Template (476 downloads)


Is this the only template to use?  Of course not. However, it is a good starting.

Project Elements

The role of each element in the project structure is clarified below.  For example:

README.mdThe intro file is used to provide project orientation. The file defines project objectives and is intended to introduce project data, source code and configurations for repeatable research. The *.md file format is that of a basic text or markdown file. When saved to GitHub, it will be used to create an HTML project wiki.
TODO.txtA note file on a project’s development or implementation status with a list of bugs and future improvement needs.
.RprofileA hidden file in every project structure with instructions that are run at project start-up. The start-up file sources project configuration scripts and attaches data as needed.
cacheThe cache is used to store data output.
configConfiguration settings are stored in one or more configuration scripts. The scripts are customized for each project.
dataThe data directory stores all data inputs in raw format.
docsHere you can store any source or reference material about the project.
imageUsed to store image output, including Rplots, image files or gif animations.
libUsed to store custom functions. The scripts provide useful functionality, but do not constitute analysis or production scripts per se
reportUsed to store output tables and reports. R is capable of supporting a broad range of outputs including Word, Powerpoint, pdf, LaTeX and HTML.
srcStores all project source code for analysis and repeatable research. The filename format #_name helps code sequencing and parallel processing.

Project Start-up

There are several ways to open a project:

  • First, use the OpenProject command to select an existing project file,
  • Second, select a project from the list of most recently opened projects,
  • Third, double-click on the *.Rproj file.

Meanwhile, RStudio takes several actions when a project it opened.  For example:

  • The R session (process) is started
  • Commands launch from the .Rprofile file (if any);
  • Old data loads from the .Rdata file (if allowed);
  • History details open from the .Rhistory file;
  • The project directory becomes the present working directory.
  • Files open in the editor.

Project Options

RStudio provides options to customize a project. Most important, the options can control the flow of data into memory. For instance:

  • Restore .RData into workspace at startup: Loads the.RData file into R at startup. It can help t0 uncheck this item if project data is large;
  • Save workspace to .RData on exit: Controls whether to save .RData on exit;
  • Always save history:  Sets if the .Rhistory file is always saved from your session.

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