SPSS for Windows: Some basics
What is SPSS?
SPSS is software that describes, displays, and analyzes data
SPSS can be accessed:
...in this classroom
...in the Schroeder 344 computer lab
...in the Milner Library computer lab
...at home if you buy SPSS at the bookstore
For the following instructions:
* = A single click of the left mouse button
**= A double-click of the left mouse button
To start the SPSS Program:
* "Start" button (lower-left hand of screen on Windows)
Move cursor over to "Programs" & then over to "SPSS for Windows"
The program will open an empty datafile window. There are many other windows in SPSS, many of which will be described in these brief tutorials. The datafile window is where your data is stored.
Elements of the SPSS Screen
SPSS File Management
Working with existing files
If you already have a datafile with data stored in it you should open that datafile.
To open data file dialog window:
* "File," * "Open" (This provides opportunity to acces previously created data files)
** On file desired
To save a file you use the"Save" file and "Save As" commands
To creating a new file you'll need to know what variables are in your data set because you will need to define each one. You'll use the Define variables
(double click) command to give name, type (numeric or string), and labels (variable labels and value labels).
To enter data in files:
-Entering data by variables:
-In "SPSS Data Editor Screen," * on the left-most box with the grayed
word VAR in it
-In the command menu, * Data then Define Variable (at this point,
you can name and describe the variable, and specify value labels and
the format of the data).
Tips for naming variables include
- Label all variables and values
- Make sure no value is out of range
- Let missing values be a "."
- Backup your file often
- It must be a maximum of 8 characters long
- It must begin with a letter, but after that any letters, numbers,
a period, or the symbols @, #, _, or $ may be used. However,
the name may not end with a period.
- All variable names must be unique; duplicates are not allowed.
- Variable names are not sensitive to upper or lower case.
- These variable names may not be used: all, ne, eq, to le, It, by,
or, gt, and not, ge, with.
-After naming the variable, you have the option of changing the
-To change the width of the variable, TAB to Width (under the "Define Variable Type" screen) and change the desired width allowed for variables. (For example, if you are entering people's names for your first variable, 10 letters is probably enough to accommodate most names).
-To change the decimal places of the variable, tab to "Decimal
Places", and type in the desired number of decimal places you
want for the variable.
-You can also change the variable type (eight are available under
the "Define Variable Type" screen
-To use Variable Labels (when the eight characters are not sufficient to
provide a clear description of what a variable is):
- "Numeric" and "String" are the most frequently used
- Numeric involves variables which only contain
- String variables contain letters (rather than only
numbers). SPSS treats these as non numeric (though they can include numbers), and most analyses may not be
conducted with strings as variables.
- * "Continue" when options under "Define Variable
Type" are satisfactory.
-* Define Variable, * Labels
-In the box for Variable Label, type in the description of the
variable you desire. (This can be up to 256 characters, but 20 or
30 characters is usually sufficient).
-When several levels of a variable need to be identified (e.g.,
sex: 1=female, 2=male), TAB down to Value and enter the
number you desire for the first level (e.g. "1" in the sex example)
-TAB to Value Label and type in the label (e.g. "female")
-* Add when completed
-Repeat these steps for all levels desired, and *Continue when
-After completing the first variable, click to the next gray box to the
right of your first variable (under var in the SPSS Data Editor) and
repeat the preceding steps with your next variable.
-Continue to enter the variables until all are entered and formatted.
-Remember to save your file from time to time. (Initially, *File, *Save,
type in the desired name for your file, *Save. For later saves, just
This is generally just a matter of typing in the numbers. However SPSS does give you the option of three different ways of entering data: by variable, by case or subject,
- Entering data by variable: * on the first empty cell under the first
variable, type the number (or word), press the Down-arrow key or
the Enter key. Continue until completed with that variable, and then
scroll up to the top of the file and enter data for the next variable, etc.
- Enter data by case or subject: * on the first empty cell for the first
subject under the first variable, then type the first number/word, press
the Right-arrow key or TAB key. Continue until all data for that case
is entered. Then scroll back to the first column and enter data for the
next subject, etc.
- Enter data by block: To automatically switch to the next variable at the
top of the file (when you finish entering data for one variable, or switch to the next case at the left of the file when you finish entering data for one subject or case), first highlight as many rows as you have subjects and as may columns as you have variables. This is done by * and dragging the mouse. When you have highlighted the block of cells that you want to enter, all cells will be highlighted except the upper left cell. In this cell you will enter the first variable. Type the number (or word) that goes in the upper left cell and press Enter if you want to go down (to enter by variable) or TAB if you want to go to the right (to enter by case or subject). Continue to input numbers until you reach the end of the row or column.