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SPSS Tutorials and Resources: Home

A library guide for SPSS-related resources

What is SPSS?

SPSS is a statistical software used for data analysis. SPSS, Inc. was acquired by IBM in 2009. The most current version is IBM SPSS Statistics 23. 

SPSS Basics - Reading Data

IBM SPSS Statistics data files are organized by cases (rows) and variables (columns). 

Reading IBM SPSS Statistics Data Files

IBM® SPSS® Statistics data files, which have a .sav file extension, contain your saved data.

  1. From the menus choose:

    File > Open > Data...

  2. Browse to and open demo.sav. See the topic Sample Files for more information.

The data are now displayed in the Data Editor.

Data can be entered directly, or it can be imported from a number of different sources, including SPSS Statistics data files, spreadsheet applications, such as Microsoft Excel; database applications, such as Microsoft Access; and text files.

SPSS Basics - Using the Data Editor

The Data Editor displays the contents of the active data file. The information in the Data Editor consists of variables and cases.

  • In Data View, columns represent variables, and rows represent cases (observations).
  • In Variable View, each row is a variable, and each column is an attribute that is associated with that variable.

Variables are used to represent the different types of data that you have compiled. A common analogy is that of a survey. The response to each question on a survey is equivalent to a variable. Variables come in many different types, including numbers, strings, currency, and dates.

Entering Numeric Data

Data can be entered into the Data Editor, which may be useful for small data files or for making minor edits to larger data files.

  1. Click the Variable View tab at the bottom of the Data Editor window.

    You need to define the variables that will be used. In this case, only three variables are needed: age,marital status, and income.

2. Click the Data View tab to continue entering the data.

The names that you entered in Variable View are now the headings for the first three columns in Data View.

Begin entering data in the first row, starting at the first column.

Entering String Data

Non-numeric data, such as strings of text, can also be entered into the Data Editor.

  1. Click the Variable View tab at the bottom of the Data Editor window.
  2. In the first cell of the first empty row, type sex for the variable name.
  3. Click the Type cell next to your entry.
  4. Click the button on the right side of the Type cell to open the Variable Type dialog box.
  5. Select String to specify the variable type.
  6. Click OK to save your selection and return to the Data Editor.

SPSS Basics - Creating and Editing Charts

You can create and edit a wide variety of chart types. In these examples, we will create and edit three commonly used types of charts:

  • Simple bar chart
  • Pie chart
  • Scatterplot with groupsA bar chart of mean income for different levels of job satisfaction.

To demonstrate the basics of chart creation, we will create a bar chart. 

  1. From the menus choose:

Graphs > Chart Builder...

The Chart Builder dialog box is an interactive window that allows you to preview how a chart will look while you build it.

SPSS Basics - Working with Output

The results from running a statistical procedure are displayed in the Viewer. The output produced can be statistical tables, charts, graphs, or text, depending on the choices you make when you run the procedure.

Using the Viewer

The Viewer window is divided into two panes. The outline pane contains an outline of all of the information stored in the Viewer. The contents pane contains statistical tables, charts, and text output.

Use the scroll bars to navigate through the window's contents, both vertically and horizontally. For easier navigation, click an item in the outline pane to display it in the contents pane.

  1. Click and drag the right border of the outline pane to change its width.

    An open book icon in the outline pane indicates that it is currently visible in the Viewer, although it may not currently be in the visible portion of the contents pane.

  2. To hide a table or chart, double-click its book icon in the outline pane.

    The open book icon changes to a closed book icon, signifying that the information associated with it is now hidden.

  3. To redisplay the hidden output, double-click the closed book icon.

    You can also hide all of the output from a particular statistical procedure or all of the output in the Viewer.

  4. Click the box with the minus sign (−) to the left of the procedure whose results you want to hide, or click the box next to the topmost item in the outline pane to hide all of the output.

    The outline collapses, visually indicating that these results are hidden.

    You can also change the order in which the output is displayed.

  5. In the outline pane, click the items that you want to move.
  6. Drag the selected items to a new location in the outline.

You can also move output items by clicking and dragging them in the contents pane.

SPSS Basics - Working with Syntax

You can save and automate many common tasks by using the powerful command language. It also provides some functionality not found in the menus and dialog boxes. Most commands are accessible from the menus and dialog boxes. However, some commands and options are available only by using the command language. The command language also allows you to save your jobs in a syntax file so that you can repeat your analysis at a later date.

A command syntax file is simply a text file that contains IBM® SPSS® Statistics syntax commands. You can open a syntax window and type commands directly, but it is often easier to let the dialog boxes do some or all of the work for you.

Pasting Syntax

The easiest way to create syntax is to use the Paste button located on most dialog boxes.

  1. Open the data file demo.sav. See the topic Sample Files for more information.
  2. From the menus choose:

    Analyze > Descriptive Statistics > Frequencies...

  3. Select Marital status [marital] and move it into the Variable(s) list.
  4. Click Charts.
  5. In the Charts dialog box, select Bar charts.
  6. In the Chart Values group, select Percentages.
  7. Click Continue.Click Paste to copy the syntax created as a result of the dialog box selections to the Syntax Editor.

8. To run the syntax currently displayed, from the menus choose:

Run > Selection


This step-by-step tutorial contains selected instructions, figures and charts from the SPSS Statistics 23.0.0 Tutorial via the IBM Knowledge Center.