Exercise 1: Getting Started with SPSS

This book takes you through the basic operations of SPSS with some dummy data.

1. Getting Started

First download SAS_prac_bodyfat.xlsx. Open it in Excel and have a look at the column headers. The spreadsheet contains data on body dimension measurements collected from 506 individuals.

The data have been extracted from the article Exploring Relationships in Body Dimensions from the Journal of Statistics Education (vol. 11 No. 2).

  • Measurements are in pounds or inches for weights, heights and lengths, years for ages, and proportions/index values for body fat, density and adiposity (body mass index).
  • Figures for elbows, wrists, knees and ankles are the sums of both for each individual.
  • BODYFAT has been measured using a water-submergence test, whereas ADIPOSITY is calculated from the weight and height measurements.

When you’ve familiarised yourself with the contents, close Excel. Open SPSS. The application might start with a ‘splash screen’ – just click Cancel to close it.

An empty Data Editor window will then be visible.

You will need to bring data into SPSS. Click on File > Open > Data.

Navigate to the folder where you saved the SAS_prac_bodyfat.xlsx file. Click on the down-arrow in the Files of type: menu and choose Excel. The Excel file should appear. Click on it and then click Open.

Make sure the tick-box for Read variable names from the first row of data is ticked, then click OK.

An Output Viewer window will appear with a message detailing the operation to ‘GET DATA’.

Switch back to the Data Editor. It should be filled with the data.


Save it somewhere convenient as bodyfat_data. Note that the file type for an SPSS data document is .sav.

In the data viewer, there are two tabs in the bottom left corner. Data View is highlighted. Click on Variable View. This gives you a list of all the variables and the way they are stored in SPSS. If you needed to, you could alter these settings – for instance if you wanted to store a number as text you could change its Type to String. Leave these settings for now, though, and click back to the Data View.