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Research and Statistical Support - University of North Texas

RSS Matters

Link to the last RSS article here: Free ! = Cheap: Open Source and/or Free Alternatives in Statistical Analysis. - Ed.

Getting the Most from Your SPSS 17 Output:
Labels and Exporting

By Patrick McLeod, Research and Statistical Support Services Consultant

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 value labels.


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 modify it.


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 for Frequencies.


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 analysis.


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 SPSS output!



Originally published, February 2009 -- Please note that information published in Benchmarks Online is likely to degrade over time, especially links to various Websites. To make sure you have the most current information on a specific topic, it may be best to search the UNT Website - . You can also search Benchmarks Online - as well as consult the UNT Helpdesk - Questions and comments should be directed to

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