How to Analyze Survey Data With SPSS

By Shane Hall

Surveys are favorite research tools among analysts and researchers in a range of fields, including education, social science and business. Surveys help researchers assess student classroom experiences, political and social attitudes, and customer satisfaction. Good survey research, however, requires an effective tool for analyzing the data a questionnaire generates. SPSS, a favorite statistical software program in academia, business and government, is an effective data analysis tool that users of varying experience levels can use to study their survey results.

Step 1

Open SPSS. You will see the SPSS Data Editor, a spreadsheet-like grid into which you can enter and store data.

Step 2

Enter the variable names on the Data Editor. Click the "Variable View" tab in the bottom left of the data editor. This opens a new grid into which you can type the names of your column variables. For example, each variable name could be a shortened version of the corresponding survey question. Type one variable name in each row under the column labeled "Name." For example, a 20-item survey would have 20 columns.

Step 3

Click the "Data View" screen and enter your survey data. Let each row in the data editor represent a survey respondent. For example, a 20-item survey administered to 200 people would give you 200 rows and 20 columns of data. For ease of analysis, convert your response categories to numeric codes. A response scale using the categories "Agree," "Disagree" and "No Opinion," for example, could be coded as 1, 2 and 3, respectively.

Step 4

Examine the data, making sure you entered the correct responses under the correct columns and did not omit any responses. Begin your data analysis.

Step 5

Choose the "Analyze" menu. Select "Descriptive Statistics," "Frequencies." This opens a smaller window that displays two boxes. To choose respondent characteristics, such as race and gender, click that variable in the left-side box and the arrow between the two boxes, which will move the variable name to the empty box on the right side. When finished, click "OK." SPSS will display the results in an output window.

Step 6

Analyze the response patterns in your survey, using the frequencies procedure described in Step 5. Choose the questions you want to analyze. Click "OK." SPSS will display in an output window the percentage of respondents who agree, disagree or express no opinion on the individual items in your survey.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid using the "Descriptives" option in the Descriptive Statistics part of the "Analyze" menu to analyze your survey data. Using descriptive measures, such as means and standard deviations, makes nominal data, in which a number represents a response category, difficult to interpret.