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SPSS eTutor: Entering Data in SPSS

A Brief Guidebook for using SPSS at Empire State College

Entering Data in SPSS

The first step in entering data is to enter and define your variables. You will do this in the Variable View of the Data Editor. (Make sure that you have read the previous page, SPSS Overview, prior to attempting to enter data).

Here is a brief review of the various columns in the Variable View:

Name: abbreviated name of the variable

Data Type: if you click on the right hand of the box you will find a drop list of options. Most of the time you will most likely use “numeric” for your projects. If you want to add text, change this to “string”.

Width: the number of digits or characters possible for the variable. For example, if you had 15 possible responses, you would need to have a width of 2 (one for the tens’ place and another for the ones’ place).

Decimals: the number of decimal places that the variable requires

Labels: a brief description or label for your variable

Values: the values you have assigned to the labels (for example, 1=yes, 2=no, 8= K, 9=NA

Missing: values designated as missing

Columns: Width of Column in Data View refers to the number of letters in the variable name. The default is ‘8’ which should be sufficient for most of your work.

Align: alignment of data in Data View: right, left or center. The default is ‘right’.

Measure: level of measurement: Nominal, Ordinal, Scale (SPSS designates both Interval and Ratio measures as Scale). Be aware: the default is ‘Scale’ so if you have ordinal or nominal variables you will need to change these.


HINT! If you have variables with the same attributes (e.g. “yes”, “no”), you can save time by entering the attributes for the first variable, click  the appropriate cell, Edit, and Copy. Then for every other variable that has the same attributes, click on the new cell, Edit and Paste.

You need to list and define each and every variable. Once you have completed this, go back to the Data View. You may now begin inputting your data. Remember, each row is a single subject.


Please note: If you need to request accommodations with content linked to on this guide or with your SPSS Software,  on the basis of a disability, please contact Accessibility Resources and Services by emailing them at  Requests for accommodations should be submitted as early as possible to allow for sufficient planning. If you have questions, please visit the disability services website


SPSS eTutor by Dee Britton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.