Producing data for people who expect SPSS compatibility

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Envelope Generator
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Producing data for people who expect SPSS compatibility

Postby Envelope Generator » Thu Feb 19, 2015 8:15 am UTC

My work currently involves assembling data for researchers. Many of them use SPSS and request their things in SPSS or SPSS compatible format. Most are content with Excel spreadsheets but some aren't and complain of not being able to import my data properly, which is quite frustrating to me. I have never used SPSS; I doubt I can convince my boss to buy me a license just to be able to save files in a different format; these researchers are typically not computer-savvy and I can offer very little help since I'm not familiar with their software.

Do you know any general tips or guidelines for structuring data without access to SPSS in such a way as to make it painless for SPSS users to integrate it into their workflow? The most common source of complaints is producing labels to match the numerical data.

edit: I am aware of PSPP and Gretl but I am not convinced that they are dependable in an actual real life production environment.
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Re: Producing data for people who expect SPSS compatibility

Postby Carlington » Thu Feb 19, 2015 9:46 am UTC

I don't know whether you have already found this yourself, but UCLA has a guide on this. If you have a lot of data it may not be useful, as it's not an automated process, but it looks useful for smaller amounts of data and it may be automatable in Excel, I don't have enough experience to know.
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Re: Producing data for people who expect SPSS compatibility

Postby Envelope Generator » Thu Feb 19, 2015 2:04 pm UTC

Thanks, I have seen that one but it doesn't go beyond commonsense practices.
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Re: Producing data for people who expect SPSS compatibility

Postby Jplus » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:59 am UTC

I'm not sure I understand the problem. What is wrong with saving the data as CSV?
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Re: Producing data for people who expect SPSS compatibility

Postby Envelope Generator » Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:06 am UTC

Pray tell how to represent eg. value-label mappings in a CSV file so that a non-tech-savvy SPSS user can import it. That's what the problem is. From interaction with users I've gathered that SPSS files can and do have more stuff in them than just a record-per-row, variable-per-column spreadsheet, and I'm at a loss to find instructions to represent that stuff in non-SPSS file format so that it is importable into SPSS.
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Re: Producing data for people who expect SPSS compatibility

Postby Jplus » Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:47 pm UTC

By "value-label mapping", do you mean the thing where you have a factor variable (e.g. high treatment vs. low treatment vs. control) and the levels of the factor are encoded with arbitrary integer values (e.g. 2 for high, 1 for low and 0 for control), so you need a mapping between the integer values and the names (labels) for the levels? If so:
Spoiler:
just encode the variable by writing the labels directly into the column. The integer values add nothing, they are only an ad-hoc solution for software that can't deal with strings. SPSS will just assign its own arbitrary integer values to the factor levels if necessary.

What other kinds of data that don't (seem to) fit in a record-per-row, variable-per-column format are you providing that your users want to be embedded natively into SPSS files?

Are you sure your boss isn't willing to purchase an SPSS license for you?

In case you're using R or don't mind adopting it (because it's free): there's the write.foreign function, which does not strictly write native SPSS, but nonetheless can represent your data in a way that SPSS can read without requiring intervention by your users. See here, p. 21-22.
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Re: Producing data for people who expect SPSS compatibility

Postby cphite » Fri Feb 27, 2015 4:02 pm UTC

Envelope Generator wrote:My work currently involves assembling data for researchers. Many of them use SPSS and request their things in SPSS or SPSS compatible format. Most are content with Excel spreadsheets but some aren't and complain of not being able to import my data properly, which is quite frustrating to me. I have never used SPSS; I doubt I can convince my boss to buy me a license just to be able to save files in a different format; these researchers are typically not computer-savvy and I can offer very little help since I'm not familiar with their software.


So you go to your boss and you say "Boss, a lot of our researchers want their things in SPSS or a compatible format, and complain of not being able to import data properly. In order to accommodate them, I will need this license and some training. If taking an actual class is out of the question, I will at least need some time to set aside to study online materials, and may need to buy a good book or two."

It would probably be a good idea to gather some information; some actual examples of what SPSS can do, and specific examples of what the researchers want versus what you were able to give them. How much a license will cost; and, if possible, some alternatives. You may even want to get some of the researchers to help you make your case - they have a vested interest in you getting the tools you need.

At that point, your boss can decide to buy you the license and give you the training - or at least grant you the time you need to acquire some necessary knowledge... Or he can decide that the researchers should just suck it up and deal with the data you're able to give them.

I know it can seem intimidating to ask for funding for things... But as a manager myself, I would much rather have people ask me for money for something that helps them do their job properly, than have them struggle along and do things incorrectly or incompletely. I assume that your boss wants the researchers to get information they need in the way that they need it.


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