Getting the Most from Your SPSS 17 Output:
Patrick McLeod, Research and Statistical Support Services
While there are numerous statistical
software packages used for research and instruction across many
disciplines in the academic world, SPSS is almost universal.
Whether you have merely heard of SPSS or you use SPSS for your
bread-and-butter research and instruction, SPSS is everywhere.
As with most statistical software packages,
there are many tips and tricks to helping you work smarter in
SPSS. The tip that I’m going to discuss today has to do with
variable labels, value labels and exporting output for
presentation-ready and publication-ready graphics.
For large datasets, labeling your variables
and using value labels in SPSS can be a very time consuming
practice, but it is a practice that can add nice emphasis to
aspects of your data that you want to highlight.
SPSS 17’s default data view shows the user
the spreadsheet view of his or her data. For this example, I’m
going to use one variable, a question on whether or not people
should be allowed to eat SPAM three times a day, with four
possible answers. To label this variable and the values for this
variable, we need to shift to the variable view; you can do this
by clicking on Variable View at the bottom of the screen.
In the variable view we can change the
variable type, variable width, the number of decimal places, add
or modify variable labels, add or modify value labels, notate
missing values, change the number of columns the variable takes
up or change the variable’s alignment.
For this variable, I’ve assigned it a label
of “Q1. How do you feel about eating SPAM three times a day?”
You assign variable labels by clicking in the appropriate cell
under the Label column and then entering text in the dialog box
that appears. After we’ve added the text for the variable label,
we’ll next add text for the values of the variable, known as
Adding value labels is as simple as typing
the individual value labels into the Value field, then entering
the labels into the Label field and then clicking Add. If you
misspell-spell something or confuse a label, simply click on the
Value/Label combination and then click on the Change button to
Once we’ve added our variable labels and
value labels, we’re ready to create some basic output and export
it. For this example, we’ll be creating a frequency table and
pie chart. To do this, we go to the Analyze Menu, then choose
the option for Descriptive Statistics, then select the option
Your variables will appear in the box on
the left hand side of the pop-up window. Highlight them and
click on the arrow to move them to the Variables box for
Click on the Statistics button to select
what statistics you want reported.
Once you’ve selected your statistics, click
on Continue. If you want graphical output for your frequency
tables, you will need to click on the Charts button.
Once you’ve selected your Chart options,
click on Continue. Once you’ve specified all the options you want
for your frequency table output, click the OK button.
Voila! You should see something like the
above output in the SPSS Output Window. Thanks to adding a
variable label and value labels, our output is meaningful…and
good looking! The fun doesn’t end there, however…we’re going to
export this output into a Word document.
By selecting the File menu and then click
on the Export option, we have opened the Export window where we
can export selections or our entire SPSS output into non-SPSS
formats such as Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF. We’re going to
select Adobe PDF.
A word of caution here: For pie charts and
other large graphics, I’ve found that it is better to export
them in landscape format than in portrait (standard) format.
Exports in portrait format with keys to the contents of the
graphic (like we have in this pie chart) often end up with the
contents of the keys being cut off at the right margin. By
exporting in landscape, we insure that our entire graphic is
exported to Word. To switch from portrait to landscape, click on
the Change Options button.
After you’ve changed the Orientation from
portrait to landscape, click on OK, then on Continue and finally
on OK again. You should now have a nice Word document of your