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An Intermediate Guide to SPSS Programming: Using Syntax for Data Management introduces the major tasks of data management and presents solutions using SPSS syntax. This book fills an important gap in the education of many students and researchers, whose coursework has left them unprepared for the data management issues that confront them when they begin to do independent research. It also serves as an introduction to SPSS programming. All the basic features of SPSS syntax are illustrated, as are many intermediate and advanced topics such as using vectors and loops, reading complex data files, and using the SPSS macro language.

An Intermediate Guide to SPSS Programming will be a welcome addition to advanced undergraduate and graduate statistics courses across the social sciences, education, and health. Professional researchers, data managers, and statisticians will also find this an invaluable reference for SPSS and data management.

Part I: An Introduction to SPSS
1. What Is SPSS?
A Brief History of SPSS

SPSS as a High-Level Programming Language

SPSS as a Statistical Analysis Package

2. Interacting With SPSS
The SPSS Session

SPSS Windows

Basics About SPSS Commands

Order of Execution of SPSS Commands

Batch Mode and Interactive Mode

3. Types of Files in SPSS
The Command or Syntax Files

The Active or Working Data File

The Output Files

The Journal Files

4. Customizing the SPSS Environment
Displaying Current Settings

Changing Current Settings

Eliminating Page Breaks

Increasing Memory Allocation

Changing the Default Format for Numeric Variables

Part II: An Introduction to Computer Programming With SPSS
5. An Introduction to Computer Programming
Using Syntax Versus the Menu System

The Process of Writing and Testing Syntax

Typographical Conventions Used in This Book

How Code and Output Are Presented in This Book

Some Reasons to Use Syntax

Beginning to Learn Syntax

Programming Style

6. Programming Errors
Syntax Errors and Logical Errors

The Debugging Process

Common SPSS Syntax Errors

Finding Logical Errors

Changing Default Error and Warning Settings

Deciphering SPSS Error and Warning Messages

7. Documenting Syntax, Data, and Output Files
Using Comments in SPSS Programs

Using Comments to Prevent Code From Executing

Documenting a Data File

Echoing Text in the Output File

Using Titles and Subtitles

Part III: Reading and Writing Data Files in SPSS
8. Reading Raw Data in SPSS
Reading Inline Data

Reading External Data

The FIXED, FREE, and LIST Formats

Specifying the Delimiter Symbol

Reading Aggregated Data With DATA LIST

Reading Data With Multiple Records Per Case

Using FORTRAN-Like Variable Specifications

Two Shortcuts for Declaring Variables With Identical Formats

Specifying Decimal Values in Data

9. Reading SPSS System and Portable Files
Reading an SPSS System File

Reading an SPSS Portable File

Dropping, Reordering, and Renaming Variables

10. Reading Data Files Created by Other Programs
Reading Microsoft Excel Files

Reading Data From Earlier Versions of Excel

Reading Data From Later Versions of Excel

Using GET TRANSLATE to Read Other Types of Files

Reading Data From Database Programs

Reading SAS Data Files

11. Reading Complex Data Files
Reading Mixed Data Files

Reading Grouped Data Files

Reading Nested Data Files

Reading Data in Matrix Format

12. Saving Data Files
Saving an SPSS System File

Saving an SPSS Portable Data File

Saving a Data File for Use by Other Programs

Saving Text Files

Part IV: File Manipulation and Management in SPSS
13. Inspecting a Data File
Determining the Number of Cases in a File

Determining What Variables Are in a File

Getting More Information About the Variables

Checking for Duplicate Cases

Looking at Variable Values and Distributions

Creating Standardized Scores

14. Combining Data Files
Adding New Variables to Existing Cases

Adding Summary Data to an Individual-Level File

Combining Cases From Several Files

Updating Values in a File

15. Data File Management

Reordering and Dropping Variables in the Active File

Eliminating Duplicate Records

Sorting a Data Set

Splitting a Data Set

Selecting Cases

Filtering Cases

Weighting Cases

16. Restructuring Files
The Unit of Analysis

Changing File Structure From Univariate to Multivariate

Incorporating a Test Condition When Restructuring a File

Changing File Structure From Multivariate to Univariate

Transposing the Rows and Columns of a Data Set

17. Missing Data in SPSS
Types of Missing Data

System-Missing and User-Missing Data

Looking at Missing Data on Individual Variables

Looking at the Pattern of User-Missing Data Among Pairs of Variables

Looking at the Pattern of Missing Data Across Many Variables

Changing the Value of Blanks in Numeric Fields

Treatment of Missing Values in SPSS Commands

Substituting Values for Missing Data

18. Using Random Processes in SPSS
The Random-Number Seed

Generating Random Distributions

Random Selection of Cases

Random Group Assignment

Random Selection From Multiple Groups

Part V: Variables and Variable Manipulations
19. Variables and Variable Formats
String and Numeric Variables

System Variables

Scratch Variables

Input and Output Formats

The NUMBER Format

The COMMA, DOT, DOLLAR, and PCT Formats

20. Variable and Value Labels
Rules About Variable Names in SPSS

Systems for Naming Variables

Adding Variable Labels

Adding Value Labels

Controlling Whether Labels Are Displayed in Tables

Applying the Data Dictionary From a Previous Data Set

21. Recoding and Creating Variables
The IF Statement

Relational Operators

Logical Variables

Logical Operators

Creating Dummy Variables


Converting Variables From Numeric to String or String to Numeric

Counting Occurrences of Values Across Variables

Counting the Occurrence of Multiple Values in One Variable

Creating a Cumulative Variable

22. Numeric Operations and Functions
Arithmetic Operations

Mathematical and Statistical Functions

Missing Values in Numeric Operations and Functions

Domain Errors

A Substring-Like Technique for Numeric Variables

23. String Functions
The Substring Function


Searching for Characters Within a String Variable

Adding or Removing Leading or Trailing Characters

Finding Character Strings Identified by Delimiters

24. Date and Time Variables
How Date and Time Variables Are Stored in SPSS

An Overview of SPSS Date Formats

Reading Dates With Two-Digit Years in the Correct Century

Creating Date Variables With Syntax

Creating Date Variables From String Variables

Extracting Part of a Date Variable

Doing Arithmetic With Date Variables

Creating a Variable Holding Today's Date

Designating Missing Values for Date Variables

Part VI: Other Topics
25. Automating Tasks Within Your Program

The DO IF Command Structure

The DO REPEAT Command Structure

The LOOP Command Structure

26. A Brief Introduction to the SPSS Macro Language
The Parts of a Macro

Macros Without Arguments

Macros With Arguments

Specifying Arguments by Position

Macros Using a Flexible Number of Variables

Controlling the Macro Language Environment

Sources of Further Information About SPSS Macros

27. Resources for Learning More About SPSS Syntax

Web Pages

Mailing Lists

About the Author

“The book makes a distinct and important contribution to the field by focusing on an important set of skills that is often only briefly touched upon (if at all) in courses or texts. SPSS users benefit from having solid familiarity with syntax coding in addition to being able to use the pull-down menus. A careful study of this book will help readers advance these important skills.”

Eric Einspruch
RMC Research Corporation

"Where was this manual when I was trying to learn SPSS for my dissertation after switching from MiniTab? It would have been a valuable tool to save enormous amounts of time. It is succinct and to the point."

Wanda J. Long
St. Charles Community College

Helpful and valuable resource for any person undertaking data analysis using SPSS. Recommended for masters and doctoral research students.

Ms Kelly Maguire
Marketing Department , Leisure and Tourism, Sligo Institute of Technology
February 11, 2016

Very few students would need this book. Would recommend to individuals as needed. Clear and helpful

Professor James Parrott
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Health Related Professional
March 12, 2013

This short guide on SPSS syntax is a welcome addition to the literature and covers functions and areas that often aren't taught as part of the mainstream curriculum. Due to the advanced nature of using syntax (rather than the accessible GUI) this is really a book for postgraduates and academics.

Dr Luke Sloan
Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
March 7, 2011

This is a comprehensive text book that takes the reader beyond most introductory text books but still guides them through. it is an ideal supplimentary read for Masters students and beyond, especially those who require a deeper level of syntactical understanding

Dr Paul Nash
Centre for Innovative Ageing, University of Wales, Swansea
February 2, 2011

For those who want more advanced means in writing syntax in SPSS

Dr Nii Amoo
Department Business Studies, Bradford College
December 3, 2010
Key features
  • Overview of data management issues, with practical solutions
  • A beginner-level introduction to SPSS and computer programming
  • Many examples of SPSS syntax and annotated output
  • Chapters on date and time variables in SPSS, missing data, nonstandard data files, and SPSS macro language, and random processes

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