Using SPSS and PASW/Understanding the Data View

< Using SPSS and PASW

The Data Editor window of SPSS has two tabs that provide different information, the data, and data on that data (the metadata). This page explores the former, the Data View tab.

The tabs are shown in the bottom left corner of the Data Editor window, as shown:


The Data View tab shows the raw data in your data set. The rows represent individual cases. If your level of analysis is people, then each case represents one person. Here are three:


The columns represent variables. Each column contains all individual case data on that particular variable. The "id" column:


A cell, at the intersection of a row and a column, represents one observation/measurement/datum.

Depending on the size of your data set, as with a spreadsheet, you may need to scroll up or down to see more cases or left or right to see more variables.

The Data View tab in SPSS also allows you to modify your raw data. You can do so by simply clicking on any cell in the Data View tab:


Once you click on the cell, if you begin typing, you will replace all of the information in the cell. If you double-click on a cell, you can modify the contents without replacing them:


While a nice feature of SPSS, the ability to modify your raw data is dangerous to the cavalier, as it makes it easy to change your raw data. Changing your raw data should never be undertaken lightly or without backup as it will change your analyses. Recent versions of SPSS include an "undo" feature, but not all changes in SPSS can be undone.

It is good practice to work on copies of original data, only, and to keep backup files so that you can restore your data to good condition in the case of mishap.

Additionally, you should know that the Data View can be manipulated much like a spreadsheet. E.g., by clicking a column or row header, then re-clicking it, you can move columns and rows to rearrange them:


Moving through the data can be accomplished using the arrow keys, the page up and down keys, and the home and end keys as you might expect. One useful habit is to use the tab key to move right across a case's variable values. The tab key wraps around the data when it encounters an empty, undefined column, moving down to the start of the next case.

Additionally, you can sort by variable values, which is illustrated in sorting data.