How to Use SPSS
(adapted from




SPSS is a statistical analysis package and can be used to analyse questionnaires etc. Using SPSS is a three stage process:

1.Defining Variables

2.Inputting data

3.Analysing the data


Starting SPSS


Start a Windows NT session as normal

Click Start:Course Programs SPSS v11.5.


SPSS will open and will display the What would you like to do? Dialog box.


To create a new file - Select Type in data and click on OK

To open an existing file - Select Open an existing data source and click on OK. Select the file from the list shown, or select More Files.


SPSS Basics

When a new file is opened, the SPSS screen will appear as shown below.


If data is being input from a questionnaire:

Each row contains the data from one completed questionnaire,

Each column (or variable) corresponds to each question on a questionnaire

The data entered into each cell is the value. It represents the answer to the question by that respondent.




Defining a Variable


To define a variable, select the Variable View tab at the bottom of the SPSS window. Variable View is used to display and define the properties of all the variables. The properties are set by moving the cursor in to the relevant cell.



A variable can have a name of up to 8 characters but must NOT include spaces. The name appears as the column heading when in Data View.


Used to define the type of data being entered. Select the appropriate type from the dialog box, and click on OK. Further information on variable type is available by clicking the Help button.


Width / Decimal Places

Variable width and decimal places are automatically set to a default depending on the variable type. Alter to a more suitable setting if necessary.



Labels are used to enter a more meaningful description of the variable. The variable label will appear on the analysis output and makes identification of results easier. A maximum of 256 characters is available.



Values are used to define and encode the information and will appear on results and charts generated in SPSS. For example, the following code may be decided:


1 = Male 2 = Female 3 = Did Not Answer


As the Values cell is selected, the default value of is displayed. Click on the on the right of the cell to display the Value Labels dialog box.

1.Type in the Value

2.Type in the corresponding Value Label

3.Click on the Add button

4.Repeat until all values and labels have been added

5.Click on OK. To add or modify value labels, click on the



Missing data can be significant when analysing the data.

Click on the in Missing Values to display the dialog box.


1.Click on Discrete missing values

2.Enter a value that is obvious and easy to code

3.Click on OK to return to the Variable View window.


Further information on Missing Values is available by clicking the Help button.


Columns, Align and Measure

These properties are automatically completed depending on what was entered in the previous columns. Alter to a more suitable setting if necessary.


Entering Data


To enter data:

1.Click on at the bottom of the SPSS window.

2.Enter the data by typing in the values defined for each variable.

3.Use either the Return key, or the cursor keys to move between cells.


It is recommended that data is saved after data has been entered in every five rows to minimise possible data loss.


Saving Data


To save data:

1.Click on File, Save on the menu bar.

2.Select the drive where the file is to be saved - enter a suitable filename.

3.Click on Save the file will be save with the .sav extension, and can only be opened in SPSS.

4.Once the file is saved, click on the button periodically to update the saved file on disk.




Analysing Data


After data has been input, SPSS can be used to analyse the information.

All analysis options are located under the Analyze menu.

Select the type of analysis required the small arrow indicates that there are further options available within the particular category, as shown in the example for Descriptive Statistics. Select Descritive Statisitics, then Frequencies.


After selecting the analysis type required, a dialog box will appear, relevant to the analysis chosen. All follow the same principle:


1.Select the variables to be analysed in the left hand box

2.Click on the arrow to transfer it to the Variable(s) box.

3.Select the options required from Statistics, Charts or Format

4.Make sure to ask for Mean, Mode, Median, & Standard Deviation under Statistics. Ask for Histograms with normal curve under Charts. Leave Format defaults as is.

5.Click on OK. - the analysis produced will appear in the SPSS Viewer window.


SPSS Viewer


The SPSS viewer is split into two screens. On the left hand screen is a list of all of the SPSS results, named using the Variable labels. The results currently displayed have a red arrow to the left. Use the arrow to select the output as required.

To expand or contract the list:

Click on the + or signs, then select the output required. The right hand pane will be updated and display the output selected.

Check the tables for errors, check the Histograms for normalcy (the curve should approximate the columns.)


Formatting SPSS Output


The output generated by SPSS can be formatted as required.


Formatting Tables.

1.In the SPSS Output Viewer, double click on the table to be adjusted a hatched border will appear around the table

2.On the menu bar, select Format, Table Properties.

3.In the Table Properties dialog box, adjust the formatting as required.

4.Click on Apply to see the changes when the format is as required, click on OK.


Formatting Charts.

1.In the SPSS Output Viewer, double click on the chart to be formatted the chart will open in the SPSS Chart Editor

2.Select the part of the chart to be changed

Use Format to alter colour, fill and text attributes

Use Gallery to alter the chart type

Use Chart to alter the titles used on the chart

3.Click on File, Close to return to the SPSS Viewer window.


Printing and Manipulating Output


To print output:

1.Click on File, Print.

2.Select whether ALL output, or only the selected output is printed

3.Click on OK the output will be sent to the default printer.


To preview output before sending to the printer:

Click on the Print Preview icon, or select File, Print Preview from the menu bar.



Incorporating output in other applications.

Results obtained in SPSS may be incorporated in applications such as Microsoft Word by using Copy and Paste. (Word cannot read SPSS output files)


In the SPSS Viewer

1.Select the output to be copied

2.Click on Edit, Copy on the menu bar


In Microsoft Word

1.Open the document in which the output is to be inserted

2.Position the cursor where required

3.Click on Edit, Paste on the menu bar


SPSS tables appear as a Word table, which can be edited. SPSS graphs are pasted as a graphic; these can be resized, but any modifications to colour, font size etc must be done in SPSS.


Saving Output


It is a good idea to save the output file while it is being used:


To save the output file:

1.In the SPSS viewer, click on File, Save on the menu bar.

2.Select the drive where the file is to be saved - enter a suitable filename.

3.Click on Save the file will be save with the .spo extension.

4.Click on the button periodically to update the saved file.


Sources of Further Information


On Line Help in SPSS

Click on Help, then select from

Topics In Depth information on SPSS

Tutorial Step by Step guide on SPSS

Statistics Coach Information on statistics

SPSS Home Page information from SPSS web site


Use google and search for SPSS tutorials on certain statistical functions such as Descriptive ststtistics, Correlation, Histograms and the normal curve, etc