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CHAPTER 2 USING SPSS IN SOCIAL RESEARCH Chapter Objectives The objectives of this chapter are: 1. understanding SPSS and its various functions in the analysis of collected data; 2. learning how to transmit data from questionnaires and other forms of data collection to SPSS for analysis through data entry; 3. interpreting output from SPSS-generated information; 4. understanding the limitations of software packages such as SPSS; 5. understanding that human intervention in the data analysis process is both a necessary and integral part of the research process; and 6. understanding various myths about data analysis software programs. Chapter Summary Several software programs exist to enable researchers to analyze their data quickly and easily with some elementary computer programming. One of the more popular software programs for analyzing criminological data is SPSS, or the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. SPSS is selected here because it has such wide application. Furthermore, it contains numerous tests, graphic programs, and correlation procedures of use to criminologists who do basic research. It is assumed that most students taking this course have had a basic research methods course and are acquainted with the fundamentals of data gathering, coding of questionnaire or interview information, and other mechanics associated with doing elementary research. SPSS software facilitates the data analysis process. This SPSS software is explained to a limited degree in the chapter. The intent is not to replace more extensive discussions of SPSS software published elsewhere. Rather, it is important for students to know that statistical packages and software programs exist to assist them in their research endeavors. The process of using SPSS begins with data entry, where researchers enter values for different variables taken from questionnaires and other research tools. Once data have been entered into the software program, a data set is established. From here, various tests, techniques, and graphic presentation may be performed with the data set to describe and make decisions about one's findings. SPSS has a base system, which includes most of the software most criminologists will ever need to analyze their data.

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There are additional modules available through SPSS, Inc. that can perform specialized and more advanced tasks if needed. A brief description of branches of different options available to researchers was presented, showing that different windows when SPSS is opened allow for various choices concerning what researchers want to do. A investigator's research objectives guide this analysis process by indicating what tests ought to be conducted and what types of graphic presentation will best portray one's findings. Discussed were some of the major limitations of data analysis software. Software programs, such as SPSS, process numerical information. They do not interpret this information. Rather, it is imperative for investigators to do most of the interpretive work. Thus, merely generating numerical information, although useful, requires human intervention and guidance. Some investigators rely too heavily on software output in their research, and they do not apply a great deal of thought to the interpretive work they must perform in order to get the most from the data they have collected. There are also software program weaknesses, where data of different types are manipulated in ways so as to render the results meaningless or useless for any practical research purpose. Several myths associated with data analysis software programs were presented. It is imperative that investigators insinuate themselves into the data analysis process and make important interpretations of the data they have collected. Software programs such as SPSS cannot do everything for the researcher. Therefore, researchers must become familiar with different statistical procedures, their appropriate applications, and their weaknesses and strengths. Statistics is an art in some respects, and students must learn to distinguish between different tests and techniques that have similar purposes but quite different assumptions for their legitimate application. True/False Items 2.1.

SPSS is a technique used by researchers to draw random samples from from populations. (F)


Computers can do pretty much everything for a researcher. (F)

2.3. Data entry is a process for placing data into a software program where it can be analyzed. (T) 2.4. Coded information is usually extracted from a questionnaire where it can be manipulated statistically by some computer software data analysis package. (T)

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2.5. A "variable view" is a window on an SPSS program showing variable values. (T) 2.6. The Data Editor is a window on an SPSS program that analyzes data entered by a researcher. (F) 2.7.

Each row in a Data Editor window represents an element or person. (T)


In SPSS language, "var" standards for variation. (F)

2.9. (T)

Investigators usually use SPSS to analyze information from a data set.

2.10. Most students probably would not want to perform data analyses beyond those contained in the Base System of an SPSS program. (T) 2.11. Interpretations of numerical data are sometimes printed as a part of the output of an SPSS program. (T) 2.12. With SPSS, we can do anything we want with the data we have collected. (F) 2.13. All information generated by an SPSS program is meaningful and useful to researchers. (F) 2.14. "Garbage in, garbage out" refers to the fact that no software program can improve on the quality of information it is analyzing. (T) 2.15. SPSS contains all statistical programs needed for all types of data analysis. (F) 2.16. Researchers using SPSS must interpret much of the data generated by this software program. (T) 2.17. SPSS never makes mathematical mistakes. (F) 2.18. SPSS has its limitations for analyzing different types of data. (T) 2.19. Most tests of significance and measures of association have the same assumptions. (F)

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2.20. SPSS "understands" information manipulated and analyzed and gives the researcher the benefit of this understanding. (F) Multiple-Choice Items 2.21. Software such as SPSS: a. is a substitute for good thinking. b. is totally reliable. c. may mislead researchers into believing they have significant information.* d. None of the above.

2.22. With software programs such as SPSS, calculators are: a. b. c. d.

no longer necessary. obsolete. occasionally useful.* None of the above.

2.23. Putting data into your SPSS program is accomplished through the function known as: a. b. c. d.

Data Editor. data entry.* data coding. data retrieval.

2.24. SPSS can: a. import data from almost any type of file. b. analyze simple data sets and perform descriptive and inferential procedures. c. generate cross-tabulated reports. d. All of the above.* 2.25. When the names of variables are clearly identified in a Data Editor window of an SPSS program, this means that researchers are using the:

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a. b. c. d.

data editor view. the data view. the variable view.* None of the above.

2.26. When researchers have collected information from a large sample of persons and coded this information, it is transmitted to SPSS manually. This collection of information is typically called a: a. b. c. d.

data set.* data entry document. data retrieval procedure. data analysis mechanism.

2.27. When data have been entered into SPSS, the fact is: a. b. c. d.

new data cannot be added. the data editor is closed. new data can be added.* entering new data will automatically erase existing old data.

2.28. "Branches" on an SPSS program refer to: a. b. c. d.

data analysis options.* variables. data entry components. the divisions on the Data Editor window.

2.29. Graphic presentation is: a. one of SPSS's capabilities.* b. beyond the scope of SPSS, since it only manipulates numerical information. c. only available on SPSS through a special advanced module. d. None of the above. 2.30. The seductive powers of computers and programs such as SPSS mean that

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researchers might think that: a. b. c. d.

computers can do everything for them. they can rely totally on the produced data. no interpretation of data is necessary. All of the above.*

Short-Answer Essay Items 2.31. What is meant by "garbage in, garbage out"? How does it pertain to SPSS programming and software? Explain. 2.32. What are four myths about SPSS? Discuss each and give an example. 2.33. Can computers do all of your data analysis for you? Why or why not? Explain. 2.34. What is the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences? What are some of its functions? Discuss. 2.35. What is a Data Editor window on an SPSS program? What is its value? Explain. 2.36. What are four SPSS components and what are their respective functions? Discuss. 2.37. What is meant by branches when analyzing data with an SPSS program? Explain. Give some examples. 2.38. What is the role of the researcher relating to the data generated from an SPSS program? Discuss. 2.39. What is meant by the seductive powers of software output? Explain. 2.40. What are some examples of SPSS data analysis options? Describe several and discuss them.

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