Research Guides



Generally speaking, there are three main ways to get data into SPSS:

  • Enter data into the Data Editor
  • Import an Excel or text file
  • Import an SPSS file

A full list of file formats that SPSS can read is available on the IBM SPSS website.

Viewing data and results

Data Editor window displays the contents of the data file. You may create new data files, or modify existing ones with the Data Editor. The Data Editor window opens automatically when you start an SPSS session.
Output Viewer window displays the statistical results, tables, and charts from the analysis you performed (e.g., descriptive statistics, correlations, plots, charts). An Output Viewer window opens automatically when you run a procedure that generates output. In the Output Viewer windows, you can edit, move, delete and copy your results.

Viewing data and variables

Data View displays the actual data values or defined labels (you can toggle back and forth using the Value Labels button).

               Each column = a variable (or field); each row = a case (or observation).

Variable View displays variable definition information, including defined variable and value labels, data type (e.g., string, date, or numeric), measurement level (nominal, ordinal, or scale), and user-defined missing values.

In both views, you can add, change, and delete information that is contained in the data file.


Variable Names- For spreadsheets, you can read variable names from the first row of the file or the first row of the defined range. The values are converted as necessary to create valid variable names, including converting spaces to underscores. Variable names can be up to 64 characters long and may not contain spaces.

Variable Type specifies the data type for each variable. By default, all new variables are assumed to be numeric. Common data types include:

  • Numeric. A variable whose values are numbers. Values are displayed in standard numeric format. The Data Editor accepts numeric values in standard format or in scientific notation.
  • Date. A numeric variable whose values are displayed in one of several calendar-date or clock-time formats. Select a format from the list. You can enter dates with slashes, hyphens, periods, commas, or blank spaces as delimiters. The century range for two-digit year values is determined by your Options settings (from the Edit menu, choose Options, and then click the Data tab).
  • Dollar. A numeric variable displayed with a leading dollar sign ($), commas delimiting every three places, and a period as the decimal delimiter. You can enter data values with or without the leading dollar sign.
  • String. A variable whose values are not numeric and therefore are not used in calculations. The values can contain any characters up to the defined length. Uppercase and lowercase letters are considered distinct. This type is also known as an alphanumeric variable.

Variable Label provides a more descriptive name for the variable. You can toggle between cell values and labels by clicking the Value Labels button.

Variable Values allows numerical values to be assigned to nominal or ordinal data, so that it can be analyzed in SPSS.

Variable Measure describes how the data can be measured (nominal, ordinal, scale).