MicrobiologyBytes: Maths & Computers for Biologists: Introduction to SPSS Updated: February 6, 2009 Search

Introduction to SPSS

SPSS uses two main windows:

Data View

Variable View

In the Data Editor, columns represent variables (categories which are measured or counted) while rows represent cases (individual observations for a variable). Variable names must begin with a letter, e.g A1 is allowed but 1A is not. You can create and manipulate variables in Variable View, and enter or edit data in Data View.

Data Entry and Manipulation

Although you can type data directly into the SPSS Data View window, this is tedious for large datasets and liable to introduce errors! If data is already available to you in an electronic format, import it into SPSS, don't type it in! Although SPSS has extensive capacities for reformatting data, if you want to manipulate data before analysis, you will probably find easier to do this in Excel and/or a text editor and then import the result into SPSS.


There are ten menus in the SPSS Data View window:

File   Edit   Data   Transform   Analyze   Graphs   Utilities   Window   Help

Apart from the obvious menu functions such as File and Help, for the purpose of this module, the two most important menus are:

Interpreting SPSS Output:

The output from SPSS tests looks pretty confusing, but it isn't really. The main thing to look for is the Significance value. This is the probability that the null hypothesis is correct. Since we normally work with a significance (a) value of 0.05, i.e. a 95% certainty of getting the right answer:

Of course this only works if you have the null hypothesis the right way round, or you'll still get the wrong answer.

Other things to remember about using SPSS:

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