Scraping Data from HTML Forms

  • Deborah Nolan
  • Duncan Temple Lang
Part of the Use R! book series (USE R)


In Chapter 5, we saw how to scrape data from HTML pages. In this chapter, we focus on a variation of this where we get the Web page containing the data we want by submitting an HTML form. Rather than using a Web browser, we submit the form from R, providing inputs to parameterize the request from data in R. We use functionality in the RCurl package such as getForm() and post-Form() to make the requests for the Web pages and then we scrape the data using the XML package and XPath. Since the forms are described in HTML documents, in many cases we can programmatically query the HTML form and learn about its parameters and their default and possible values. We can convert this information into an R function that acts as a proxy for the HTML form. The key ideas in this chapter are 1) to be able to get data programmatically via HTML forms as part of a reproducible workflow, and 2) to further automate the creation of the code that we use to get these data. These functions attempt to provide higher-level facilities and concepts relative to getForm() and postForm().


Data Frame Developer Tool XPath Query Query String Radio Button 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Nolan
    • 1
  • Duncan Temple Lang
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of StatisticsUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of StatisticsUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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