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Mathematics: SPSS Data Entry

Mathematics support for students at the University of Suffolk.

Entering data into SPSS

We will begin by inventing a scenario where we have made a questionnaire to give to a group of people. The information collected will produce a set of data.


1. What is your title?








2. How tall are you in cm?


3. In the most recent test what was your IQ score?


4. How do you rate your university experience?







After people complete the questionnaire we will have data that we want to put into the SPSS program. Before we enter the data we have to tell SPSS what type of data we will be entering.

Let's first open the SPSS program and choose a 'New Dataset'.

We now need to define variables. At the bottom of the program choose the 'Variable View' tab.

We have something that looks a lot like a spreadsheet. In variable view the rows represent the different variables (in the example this means our different questions).

In the first four columns we will be putting the four questions that were in our questionnaire. Our first questions referred to the title of the person answering. The 'Name' column gives a variable name to this question. It needs to be a single word with no special characters. We will give the name 'title' for this variable. Click in row 1 under 'Name', type 'title' and press Enter.

We can also give the variable a friendly name (for use in charts and analysis) by typing into the 'Label' cell. For instance in this case we could type 'Title of responder' as the Label.

We shall now look at the other column headings. The 'Type' we will be keeping as numeric but the question refers to the person's title (not numerical). We shall be coding each of the titles into a numerical value. For example we could code Dr. as 1, Miss as 2, Mrs as 3, and so on. Click in the 'Values' column of row 1 and then click the three dots (...) on the right of the cell. This gives a new dialogue box.

Here we will type '1' in the 'Value' area, 'Dr' in the 'Label' area then click 'Add'. Continue to do this for 2-Miss. 3-Mrs etc.

Finally choose OK.

The 'Missing' column allows us to assign a numerical value for if anyone chooses not to answer this question. In this example we shall code the number 99 to represent any missing responses. Choose the 3 dots in the 'Missing' cell. Choose 'Discrete Missing Values' and type 99 into the first box. Then click OK.

We need to tell SPSS what type of data we will be entering. In the 'Measure' column we will be given 3 options when we click the cell.

Nominal - This type of data is sometimes referred to as categorical. It is for when the data we are entering represents different categories. The size of the numerical value is not important and only used as a label for the category.

Ordinal - Here there is an order to the data we will be entering. The difference between the numerical values does not represent anything.

Scale - This is when the numerical values represent the actual value, with either the distance between the values or the ratio between the values is relevant.

Let's consider this first variable. The numerical values of 1, 2, 3,4 and 5 are only representing categories. The value of 3 (Mrs) is just a label - it being 1 more than 2 (Miss) or three times 1 (Dr) is not relevant. We therefore need to call this data 'Nominal'.


What about the other questions?

Question 2, how tall are you in cm? We first type a variable name in the 'Name' column of row 2. We could call it 'height' with a 'Label' of 'Height of responder in cm'. In this case the number that we enter will be the responders height, we do not need to enter any coding in the 'Values' column. We should still enter a value to represent a missing height (perhaps use 999 as it's unlikely that someone would be 999cm). The measure this time is 'Scale'.

Question 3 can also be considered a 'Scale' measure (IQ of responder). For question 4 we will need to code the values, for example 1 = Rubbish, 2 = Poor, 3 = OK etc.. The numerical values refer to categories but the categories have an order to them (the higher the value the greater the satisfaction rating). We can therefore call this an 'Ordinal' measure.

Entering the Data

Now that SPSS is set up we can enter our data. For this we need to go to the 'Data View' tab at the bottom of the sheet.

The rows in the sheet now represent the different responses and the columns are the different variables we set up previously.

As we use numerical values to represent any categorical data it is a good idea to keep a handwritten reference of the codings.

Let's say that the first questionnaire gives us the data: Mrs; 165 cm; IQ 113; Good. In row 1 we would enter:

title - 3 (3 represents Mrs.)

height - 165

iq - 113

satisfaction - 4 (for good)


If the next questionnaire gives us the data: Mr; 171 cm; No Answer; Excellent we would put 4; 171; 999; 5 into row 2.

We continue to do this for the remaining data.  


The 8 minute youtube video goes over setting up and entering your data into SPSS.