What Type of Data Does SPSS Analyze?


Heather Bennett

SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) is a powerful software tool used for statistical analysis. It offers a wide range of capabilities and can handle various types of data. Understanding the types of data that SPSS can analyze is essential for researchers, analysts, and statisticians.

Data Types in SPSS

When working with SPSS, it is crucial to understand the different data types and how they are represented within the software. SPSS can handle both quantitative and qualitative data.

Quantitative Data

Quantitative data consists of numerical values that represent a specific quantity or measurement. SPSS treats quantitative data as either continuous or discrete.

Continuous Data

Continuous data refers to measurements that can take on any value within a specific range. Examples include age, weight, height, temperature, and income. In SPSS, continuous data is typically analyzed using descriptive statistics like mean, standard deviation, and correlation coefficients.

Discrete Data

Discrete data represents distinct categories or groups. This type of data cannot be measured precisely but instead falls into specific categories or classes.

Examples include gender (male/female), educational level (high school/college/graduate), and occupation (teacher/engineer/doctor). In SPSS, discrete data is often analyzed using frequency tables and cross-tabulations.

Qualitative Data

Qualitative data consists of non-numerical information that describes characteristics or attributes. SPSS treats qualitative data as categorical variables.

Nominal Data

Nominal data represents categories with no inherent order or rank. Examples include eye color (blue/green/brown), political affiliation (Democrat/Republican/Independent), and marital status (single/married/divorced). In SPSS, nominal data is typically analyzed using frequency distributions and chi-square tests.

Ordinal Data

Ordinal data represents categories with a clear order or rank. While the categories have a specific order, the differences between them may not be equal.

Examples include Likert scale responses (strongly agree/agree/neutral/disagree/strongly disagree), educational attainment (primary/secondary/tertiary), and customer satisfaction ratings (very satisfied/satisfied/neutral/dissatisfied/very dissatisfied). In SPSS, ordinal data can be analyzed using descriptive statistics and non-parametric tests.

Incorporating Data into SPSS

Now that we understand the different types of data SPSS can handle, it is essential to know how to incorporate your data into the software. SPSS accepts various file formats, including .sav (SPSS native format), .xls/.xlsx (Excel), .csv (comma-separated values), and .txt (text file).

To import your data into SPSS, go to File > Open > Data. Select the appropriate file format and locate your file. Once imported, you can begin analyzing your data using the extensive range of statistical procedures offered by SPSS.


SPSS is a versatile tool for analyzing various types of data. Whether you are working with quantitative or qualitative data, understanding the different types and their corresponding analysis techniques is crucial. By incorporating your data into SPSS effectively, you can unlock its full potential for statistical analysis.

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