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Stats Made Easy: Learning the Basics of IBM SPSS Statistics

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400 200 Rebecca Petrie

Regardless of your major, it’s more than likely you’ll need to take a statistics class at some point during your studies. If you’re in the social sciences field, you may be required to use IBM SPSS Statistics for your research. IBM SPSS Statistics is a fast and powerful solution that makes it easy to analyze and gain new insights from your data.

Not a stats fan? Don’t worry – we’ve gathered the SPSS Statistics basics you should know about to ace your stats class! 😉

First of all, what exactly is IBM SPSS Statistics used for?

IBM SPSS Statistics is used to handle large or complex data. The solution makes it easy to import and describe your data, examine relationships between variables in your data, and compare data sets to determine significant differences between them.

The best part? You don’t have to worry about complicated numbers and values. SPSS Statistics shows you words in place of numeric values and provides awesome visualizations, charts and graphs to explore your data.

Let’s get started with the basic functions.

The Data Editor and Output Viewer

IBM SPSS Statistics is comprised of two main windows: The Data Editor and the Output Viewer.

IBM SPSS Statistics data editor

The Data Editor is where you create variables, enter data, and carry out statistical functions. In this window, you’ll see two tabs at the bottom called Data View and Variable View. The data view tab looks similar to an Excel spreadsheet, where data is inputted (e.g. survey responses). The variable view is what you see behind the data. This is where you tell SPSS what your numbers represent. Here, your variables are in rows and their properties are in columns.

IBM SPSS Statistics output viewer

The Output Viewer is simply where the results of any analysis appear. This window is broken up into two sections. The left side contains a menu pane, which gives you a full list of the analyses you’ve performed. You can use this side to quickly navigate your way around your output. The right side displays the results of your analysis which can include tables, charts and graphs.

Generating Frequency Tables

A frequency distribution is a table listing each distinct value of a variable and the number of times it occurs in the same data set. For example, if you would like to know how many females and males are in your study, you would select the gender variable to be analyzed.

IBM SPSS Statistics dropdown menu, showing Analyze Descriptive Statistics > Frequencies

From the SPSS menu, select Analyze > Descriptive Statistics > Frequencies. When the dialog box appears, choose the variables you want to analyze from the source list on the left and move them into the variables list on the right. Ensure the Frequency Tables option is checked and click OK. The Output Viewer will appear with your frequency table.

IBM SPSS Statistics frequencies popup window

Descriptive Statistics

IBM SPSS Statistics allows you to calculate descriptive statistics of your variables such as the mean, minimum, maximum, sum, standard deviation and more. From the SPSS menu, go to Analyze > Descriptive Statistics > Descriptives. Once the variable window appears, pick a variable you want to analyze and move it to the field on the right.

IBM SPSS Statistics popup windows, showing Descriptives, and then Descriptives Options

For example, if you’re calculating the height variable in your survey, you would use the descriptive statistics function to find out the minimum and maximum height of respondents, the sum of all heights added together, and the average height of respondents (mean).

IBM SPSS Statistics descriptives data set example

By selecting Analyze > Compare Means > Means, you can also compare statistics between variables. When choosing which two variables to compare, you will need to specify the independent and dependent variable. Your dependent list will contain the variable you want to measure. If you’re looking to compare the average height between males and females, height would be your dependent variable and gender would be the independent variable. Once your variables are selected and you’ve clicked OK, the Output Viewer will generate your report. It’s simple!

IBM SPSS Statistics popup window showing MeansSPSS Statistics data set example showing means

Building Graphs and Figures

With its drag and drop function, it’s easy to create graphs and figures in IBM SPSS Statistics. First, select Graphs > Chart Builder from the menu to open to the Chart Builder gallery. Here, you will select the type of chart you want to build. SPSS gives you multiple options for building bar graphs, pie charts, histograms, scatterplots, box plots and more. Once you’ve selected your graph, simply drag and drop it into the graph preview box. Located to the right of your preview box are your variables. Drag and drop your selected variables in the X and Y axis drop zone to compare your data.

IBM SPSS Statistics chart builder window

There you have it – the basics of IBM SPSS Statistics! Once you’ve mastered these basics, you’ll be able to solve your business and research problems in a snap.

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