Need SPSS help? This article is a brief introduction to the program. SPSS, also known as PASW (Predictive Analytic Software), is a program that works with statistics. It is a popular program for those doing research, analyzing data and working on thesis projects. As SPSS and statistics go hand in hand, you need to know about statistics.
Statistics is a set of mathematical techniques that can be used to summarize research data and determine whether or not the data supports the researcher’s hypothesis. When working with any type of research, there are specific phases that each individual expects to complete.
The first phase is planning and designing a step that will take place before SPSS is started. In this phase, you will focus on a specific area of research, develop a hypothesis and identify a sample population for which you should conduct your research.
The second phase is data collection. Fieldwork such as observations and handing out surveys and questionnaires are common in this step. The data collected will be loaded into SPSS for interpretation.
The third phase, data analysis, and the fourth phase, reporting, are the only steps when SPSS will be used. Analysis of data will consist of running different types of tests, while reporting will include writing some type of finished paper or report.
Start the program first to start working with SPSS. These instructions assume that you are working with the program on a computer running a Windows operating system. Note that individual steps may vary. Click the start button in the lower left corner of the screen to begin. Point your mouse at all programs. Point to SPSS Inc. and then to PASW Statistics 17 (or whatever version of the program is installed on your computer). Click PASW Statistics 17 to start the program. When the program is launched, a PASW Statistics 17 dialog box appears. Click the Cancel button to close this window. This will place you in an empty data file titled “Untitled1”.
For those watching SPSS for the first time, the program interface can be overwhelming. In reality, it’s not much harder to use than your average spreadsheet program. We are now reviewing the interface to give you an insight into how to navigate through your files. Like all programs, the top bar contains the title bar showing the program that is running and the file name being worked on. Towards the upper right corner of the window are the buttons to minimize, maximize / restore and close our program window. Directly below the title bar is the menu bar, which groups the program functions into groups of common functions with an inner function of sub-menus and options for analyzing our data. Below the menu bar is the toolbar, a number of frequently used features derived from the menu bar, which are easily placed in clear view for easy access and use.
Do the rows and columns in the application window remind you of another application interface? SPSS uses rows and columns in the same way as Excel. By default, in SPSS, each column is labeled “var”, which is short to variable. The variables are the survey items or the questions you want to ask the respondents. Each row in the spreadsheet corresponds to one case. A case will contain all the answers for each participant in your survey, questionnaire, etc.
While Excel may have an unlimited number of tabs, SPSS is limited to only two: data view and variable view. These two tabs are visible in the lower left part of the SPSS window. The Data View tab is where users will enter the raw data collected from surveys, questionnaires, observations, or other forms of collection. The Variable View tab can be considered a management window. This is where variables are defined. On this tab, you assign variable names, types, and select the corresponding attributes.
The variable type determines how cases are entered. The string type is used when the answers will consist of “strings” of characters or in other words “words”. Use the string type to register variables, such as respondents’ names. The numeric type can be used when numeric answers are expected. Variables such as GPA and age often use a numeric type. Another variable type is called dollar. This type is used in conjunction with variables such as salary or cost. There are other variable types such as date and scientific notation. Assign these types when recording dates and numbers in scientific notation, respectively. In variable view, users are also able to assign a variable label. In this cell, enter a statement that explains what the variable is for. You can also enter your questionnaire. A variable label is optional.
After assigning variable names, types, and labels to each of the variables in your survey or questionnaire, users can begin entering data for analysis. Remember to save your data file frequently by going to the movie menu and then clicking save. SPSS uses its own file type called a “.sav” file. Create and save a backup of your file to a flash drive or external hard drive in case of emergency.
Although this article does not go over the details of individual tests and analyzes, keep in mind that the results of the tests appear in a separate sub-program section called the Output Window. All results, such as tables or charts in the output window, must be saved separately. If you close SPSS and do not save the results of your output window, you will need to restore all charts, tables, etc. So be sure to save any results in a separate “.spv” file.