Articles - Cluster Analysis in R: Practical Guide

Clustering Example: 4 Steps You Should Know

Clustering Example: 4 Steps You Should Know

This article describes k-means clustering example and provide a step-by-step guide summarizing the different steps to follow for conducting a cluster analysis on a real data set using R software.

We’ll use mainly two R packages:

  • cluster: for cluster analyses and
  • factoextra: for the visualization of the analysis results.

Install these packages, as follow:

install.packages(c("cluster", "factoextra"))

A rigorous cluster analysis can be conducted in 3 steps mentioned below:

Here, we provide quick R scripts to perform all these steps.


Related Book:

Data preparation

We’ll use the demo data set USArrests. We start by standardizing the data using the scale() function:

# Load the data set
# Standardize
df <- scale(USArrests)

Assessing the clusterability

The function get_clust_tendency() [factoextra package] can be used. It computes the Hopkins statistic and provides a visual approach.

res <- get_clust_tendency(df, 40, graph = TRUE)
# Hopskin statistic
## [1] 0.344
# Visualize the dissimilarity matrix

The value of the Hopkins statistic is significantly < 0.5, indicating that the data is highly clusterable. Additionally, It can be seen that the ordered dissimilarity image contains patterns (i.e., clusters).

Estimate the number of clusters in the data

As k-means clustering requires to specify the number of clusters to generate, we’ll use the function clusGap() [cluster package] to compute gap statistics for estimating the optimal number of clusters . The function fviz_gap_stat() [factoextra] is used to visualize the gap statistic plot.

# Compute the gap statistic
gap_stat <- clusGap(df, FUN = kmeans, nstart = 25, 
                    K.max = 10, B = 500) 
# Plot the result

The gap statistic suggests a 4 cluster solutions.

It’s also possible to use the function NbClust() [in NbClust] package.

It’s also possible to use the function NbClust() [NbClust package].

Compute k-means clustering

K-means clustering with k = 4:

# Compute k-means
km.res <- kmeans(df, 4, nstart = 25)
head(km.res$cluster, 20)
##     Alabama      Alaska     Arizona    Arkansas  California    Colorado 
##           4           3           3           4           3           3 
## Connecticut    Delaware     Florida     Georgia      Hawaii       Idaho 
##           2           2           3           4           2           1 
##    Illinois     Indiana        Iowa      Kansas    Kentucky   Louisiana 
##           3           2           1           2           1           4 
##       Maine    Maryland 
##           1           3
# Visualize clusters using factoextra
fviz_cluster(km.res, USArrests)

Cluster validation statistics: Inspect cluster silhouette plot

Recall that the silhouette measures (\(S_i\)) how similar an object \(i\) is to the the other objects in its own cluster versus those in the neighbor cluster. \(S_i\) values range from 1 to - 1:

  • A value of \(S_i\) close to 1 indicates that the object is well clustered. In the other words, the object \(i\) is similar to the other objects in its group.
  • A value of \(S_i\) close to -1 indicates that the object is poorly clustered, and that assignment to some other cluster would probably improve the overall results.
sil <- silhouette(km.res$cluster, dist(df))
rownames(sil) <- rownames(USArrests)
head(sil[, 1:3])
##            cluster neighbor sil_width
## Alabama          4        3    0.4858
## Alaska           3        4    0.0583
## Arizona          3        2    0.4155
## Arkansas         4        2    0.1187
## California       3        2    0.4356
## Colorado         3        2    0.3265
##   cluster size ave.sil.width
## 1       1   13          0.37
## 2       2   16          0.34
## 3       3   13          0.27
## 4       4    8          0.39

It can be seen that there are some samples which have negative silhouette values. Some natural questions are :

Which samples are these? To what cluster are they closer?

This can be determined from the output of the function silhouette() as follow:

neg_sil_index <- which(sil[, "sil_width"] < 0)
sil[neg_sil_index, , drop = FALSE]
##          cluster neighbor sil_width
## Missouri       3        2   -0.0732

eclust(): Enhanced clustering analysis

The function eclust()[factoextra package] provides several advantages compared to the standard packages used for clustering analysis:

  • It simplifies the workflow of clustering analysis
  • It can be used to compute hierarchical clustering and partitioning clustering in a single line function call
  • The function eclust() computes automatically the gap statistic for estimating the right number of clusters.
  • It automatically provides silhouette information
  • It draws beautiful graphs using ggplot2

K-means clustering using eclust()

# Compute k-means <- eclust(df, "kmeans")

# Gap statistic plot

# Silhouette plot

Hierachical clustering using eclust()

 # Enhanced hierarchical clustering
res.hc <- eclust(df, "hclust") # compute hclust
fviz_dend(res.hc, rect = TRUE) # dendrogam

The R code below generates the silhouette plot and the scatter plot for hierarchical clustering.

fviz_silhouette(res.hc) # silhouette plot
fviz_cluster(res.hc) # scatter plot