As a Fellow for the Program for Advanced Research in the Social Sciences, I have the opportunity to teach students, faculty, and staff at Duke how to develop research designs, chooose quantitative methods, and implement those methods with statistical software.

Recently, a student asked me for help in calculating average score scales from multiple survey items. Since this provided a good opportunity to teach the student that there are multiple approaches to any programming problem and that each approach faces different trade-offs in terms of computational cost, verbosity, generality, and the opportunity for making mistakes, I put together a short gist I thought I’d share. Note that you should view the raw code since the $ signs in gists are converted to formulas on this site.