Understanding SPSS Variables: Format, Type and More

If you understand SPSS variable formats and types, it will help you in getting things done accurately and quickly. Learn the format and type of SPSS variables and get in control of your data.

Ascertaining SPSS Variable Formats

SPSS differentiates write and print formats. SPSS variable format comprises of two parts. The format family is indicated by one or more letters. Most the letters speak to themselves, excluding the first two variables:

  • F (Fortran), indicating a standard numeric variable.
  • A (Alphanumeric), the common format for string variables.

Formats end with numbers, which indicate the number of characters which is required to be shown. If you find a period, the number which is present after the period represents the number of decimal places which needs to be displayed.

SPSS Variable Types

SSPS has two variable types, namely numeric and string. String variables may contain numbers, letters and other characters. Numeric variables may include just numbers. The difference between string and numeric variables is crucial due to the fact that variable type dictates what you can or cannot do with a variable.

  • You can use string functions like concatenating with string variables and taking substrings but not with numeric variables.
  • You can do calculations with the use of numeric variables but not with string variables.

In SPSS, there are no other variable types other than numeric and string. But numeric variables have varied distinct formats that are often confused with variable types.

Numeric Type

Numeric variables contain values that are in number form, like in scientific notation or standard format.

For instance: Counts (like number of free throws given in each game) are a numeric variable containing zero decimal places. Some of the mathematical calculations are allowed when applied for counting variables (like standard and mean deviation), but some statistical processes are excluded (like linear regression).

For instance: Continuous variables that can easily take any number in a range (like blood pressure, weight, height etc.) can be regarded as numeric variables. The researcher is allowed to select as many or few decimal places as they think is required. This type of variable is utilized in calculations, like computing standard and average deviations of heights.

String Variables

Also known as character variables or alphanumeric variables, string variables have values that are considered as text. This infers that the values of string variables may contain symbols, letters or numbers. The string values that are missing may appear blank.

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