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Top 10 Tips for Beginners in SPSS – Introduction to SPSS (Part 1)

Video Transcript: In this video we’ll look at the Top 10 things to know in SPSS for beginners.


Number 1: The Variable View and Data View Tabs. So if you look down towards the bottom of the screen, you’ll see two tabs, Data View and Variable View. And in this window here we have the Data View tab open, as it has the gold background. And you can see here on your screen that we have a very small data set where we have a variable gender and a variable exam 1, which corresponds to the exam scores on the first exam for ten different people. The names of these two tabs give a big clue as to their purpose. If I want to create a variable, then I want to go to the Variable View tab. And if I want to enter data or numbers, then I want to go to the Data View tab. So we want to create a variable, Exam_2. Let’s go ahead and go to the Variable View tab, and then underneath Exam_1 in Row 3 here, I’ll go ahead and click on this cell under Name and type Exam_2. Now you could call it just Exam2 if you wanted to, but I like to have the underscore to make it stand out a little more. And then I’ll press Enter, and the values to the right fill in automatically. Now we just created the variable Exam_2 and now I want to go ahead and enter the values for exam two. So to do that I’ll go to the Data View tab, since now I’m going to enter the values, or enter my data. So here after I enter each score on the exam, I press the Enter key and that moves it down. OK so I’ve entered all those values for Exam_2.

Number 2: Variable Names – Rules for Naming. So when I name variables there’s a few rules I have to make sure I follow, otherwise I might run into trouble. And why don’t we go ahead and break those rules to see what happens if we do. And one thing you cannot do is start a variable name with a number. So I’ll just call this 2test, just as an example. Press the Enter key, and notice I get an error message ‘Variable name contains an illegal first character.’ So I can’t start a variable name with a number. But as you can see here I can certainly use a number at the end of a variable name. But I just can’t start a variable name with a number, otherwise I’ll get an error message. Something else I cannot do if I wanted to have, let’s say exam 3 here, I cannot have a space, notice there’s a space here in this naming, if I press Enter, I get the error message again: it contains an illegal character. One other thing I want to stay away from is using special characters or symbols. So, for example, exam*3, that’s going to give me trouble as well. Exam&3, that gives me trouble as well. And I can use 3 at the end, that’s fine. I can use 3 throughout, except as the first character, and that’s fine too. For spaces what I do since we can’t use them, I like to use this underscore, and that works fine. In summary, the three things we don’t want to do is we don’t want to start a variable with the number, we don’t want to use any spaces, and we also don’t want to use any special characters or symbols in naming our variables.


Number 3: Creating Value Labels. Now if we go to our Data View tab and I look at my variable gender here, notice I have 1s and 2s. And the 1s and 2s differentiate between males and females. So I want to make sure I do that, so that if I go back to this data set later, I’ll remember females were a 2, for example. And there’s another useful reason why I want to do that as well, and that is when I run analyses and get tables of output, if I don’t have value labels then I’ll just get 1 and 2 reported, but if I do have value labels, then I’ll get the labels that I actually used reported, like male and female, and it just makes it a little bit easier when I read the output and I’m less likely to make a mistake. So let’s go ahead and see how to enter this value labels. So I’m going to work on that variable, so I’ll go to the Variable View tab, and then under gender where it says Values, in this column here, I’ll click on the cell. And notice here that the three dots appear. Go ahead and click on that. And then here we see Value Labels and recall that I have values of 1 and 2. So under Value I’m going to put the number, the first one, 1, and 1 correspond to male, so put male for Label, and then click Add. And notice how it throws it down here 1=male. And if 1s male, than 2 is female. So go ahead and enter that in. Click Add. And then once you see the labels down in the box here, go ahead and click OK.


Number 4: Displaying Value Labels.