working with alien SPSS files

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Informação sobre diversos inquéritos e acesso aos dados respetivos

Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: working with alien SPSS files

[New page 23 Oct 2014: last updated 5 June 2017]

[NB: Notes and commentaries below may arrive as pdf files in your download folder]

Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: working with alien SPSS files (pdf)

An alternative working title would have been: Sows’ Ears and Silk Purses: working with other peoples’ SPSS files as a follow-up to Old Dog, Old Tricks, my 2006 presentation to ASSESS.  Thought about using Old Dog, New Tricks, but it doesn’t carry the same sense of horror and fun.

Slide-shows covered recent work on other people’s files, including a live demo of Jon Peck’s Python code to move question numbers from the end to the beginning of variable labels and to change labels from UPPER to Mixed case text.  Also included were some new tricks and demos of things I didn’t know SPSS would do until I tried.  I haven’t used PowerPoint since York 2006, but I  found [Alt][PrintScreen] and MS Snip incredibly useful for getting screenshots into Word, and they also copied easily into Ppt.  The presentation ran SPSS live, drawing on my explorations of:

British Social Attitudes
Commentary on SPSS file for British Social Attitudes 2011 (pdf)
Notes on British Social Attitudes 2004 teaching data set (pdf) as used by Marsh and Elliott, 2008

​(See also page British Social Attitudes which has links to later commentaries on the ease of use and understanding of SPSS saved files distributed by UKDS on page British Social Attitudes: ​Exploring the SPSS files and detailed accounts of my creation in 2016 of a cumulative mother fille for all waves 1983 to 2014 on page British Social Attitudes 1983 to 2014: Cumulative SPSS file

Understanding Society
Commentary on Understanding Society 2010 (pdf)

NORC General Social Survey (GSS)
As of March 2016, the NORC GSS website has been completely revamped and is easier to navigate.   Some of the content in the following commentaries may now be otiose.
Commentary on full NORC General Social Survey 2008 (pdf)
Commentary on subset of General Social Survey 2008 (pdf) (as used by Sweet & Grace-Martin)
Commentary on GSS 2008 SPSS files for Babbie et al (pdf) (as used by Babbie, Halley, Wagner & Zaino)

(UK) ONS National Well-being
[New page 2 May 2015]
ONS National Well-being

Commentary on Unrestricted Access Teaching Dataset (ONS Opinions Survey, Well‐Being Module (pdf)
Data set and user guide from the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research, Manchester now renamed the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, . This dataset (SN7146) contains a selection of variables from the April 2011 wave of the ONS Opinions Survey, Well-Being Module, April –  August 2011 (SN 6893) which in turn is part of the regular government survey  Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, run in various guises since 1990

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British Social Attitudes

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Inquerito e dados respetivos sobre atitudes sociais no UK

British Social Attitudes 1983 onwards
​Cumulative SPSS file

[New page 22 June 2016: last updated 14 Feb 2017]

Cumulative files 1983 onwards
Attempting analyses across waves became increasingly frustrating as I encountered a range of anomalies, incompatibilities and inconsistencies, not to mention universally incomplete and/or incorrect specifications of measurement levels, missing values and value labels.   Accordingly I set myself the  task of generating a complete cumulative SPSS file containing the data from all waves from 1983 to 2014 (one colleague described this undertaking as Herculean) to provide what will hopefully be a valuable resource for teachers, students and researchers.  The 2015 wave was added in January 2017.

Index to UKDS downloads for British Social Attitudes 1983 – 2014 is an Excel file detailing, for each wave 1983 – 2014, year of survey, link to UKDS, download filename, size of file, number of cases, number of variables, number of variables with non-numeric formats and the new working filename assigned to amended files. The amended *.sav files were sent to Natcen for approval and possible deposit with UKDS, but are now superseded.

Non-numeric variables in British Social Attitudes is a step-by-step account of identifying, in each wave, variables with the same name, but different formats.  Several of these variables are specified as Strings with widths varying from A4 to A60, but some are in fact numbers.  Others are dates or times in DATE or TIME format and one is in COMMA1.  These and other factors prevent merging data from different waves using the SPSS command ADD FILES.  It’s been quite complex and tedious tracking them all down, but I eventually managed to create cumulative files for 1983 – 1994 and 2011 – 2014.  Merging 1995 – 2005 and 2006 – 2009 was more daunting, as several pro​blems remained to be resolved, but I eventually managed to generate a draft cumulative file for the whole series.  Much more meticulous and painstaking detective work and editing was required before a beta version was ready for public release.

Cumulative SPSS file 1983 to 2014
This task was completed on 20 June 2016 and the pass-word protected “mother” file (0.99 gb) has now been lodged (via Dropbox) with Natcen and UKDS for approval and distribution.  Custom-written Python code, freely and generously supplied by Jon Peck (retired Senior Software Engineer, IBM-SPSS) has saved me weeks if not months of painstaking needle-in-haystack searches. I also wish to thank Dr Chris Stride (Sheffield) who suggested using the sort facility in Excel to separate variable names with single (positive) missing values from those with paired (positive and equivalent negative) missing values.

For sure, some mini-glitches may remain, but to find and resolve these would at this stage be completely uneconomic of my time.  However users are warned that, because metadata for repeated variables are taken from the most recent wave, the value labels for categories of some variables differ from those of earlier waves.  This is particularly true of ordinal variables for income groups.

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SSRC Survey Unit Quality of Life

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Dados e descrição de um inquérito sobre qualidade de vida no UK

The abstracts contain details of content, sampling, fieldwork and available data files.  The questionnaires are facsimiles of the actual questionnaires used in the field.  The user manuals contain questionnaires, unweighted frequency counts on the raw data as well as technical information on fieldwork, sampling, coding, show-cards and interviewer instructions.  The SPSS saved files are restorations from original files generated in the 1970s with some editing of SPSS setup files from 1970s versions to SPSS  for Windows (11, 15, 18 and 19): a few (self-explanatory) derived variables have been left in.

Quality of Life in Britain: 1st Pilot Survey,  March 1971

1:  Abstract
2:  Questionnaire
3:  User Manual
4: SPSS saved file for 1st pilot

Quality of Life in Britain: 2nd Pilot Survey, Oct-Nov 1971

1:  Abstract
2:  Questionnaire
3:  User Manual
4: SPSS saved file for 2nd pilot

Quality of Life in Britain: 1st National Survey 1973

(replicated simultaneously in Stoke-on-Trent and Sunderland)

1:  Abstract
2: Questionnaire
3:  User Manual for main GB survey

4a: SPSS saved file for main GB survey 1973
4b: SPSS saved file for Stoke-on-Trent survey 1973
4c: SPSS saved file for Sunderland survey 1973

Quality of Life in Britain: 2nd National Survey 1975

1:  Abstract
2:  Questionnaire
3:  User Manual
4: SPSS saved file for main GB survey 1975

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British Social Attitudes

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Dados de um inquérito britânico sobre atitudes sociais

The British Social Attitudes survey is the leading social research survey in Britain. Since 1983, the annual surveys
conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (Natcen) have continually monitored and interpreted the British public’s changing attitudes towards social, economic, political and moral issues. Its findings are reported
and interpreted in a series of annual reports.

The  British Social Attitudes Information System is maintained by the Centre for Comparative European
Survey Data (CCESD) to provide non-specialist users with on-line access and analysis of a cumulative database of over 20,000 survey questions asked in British Social Attitudes surveys over the last 25 years.
Data and documentation from all surveys from 1983 are routinely deposited with the UK Data Service (UKDS) based at Essex University and can be searched on their page  British Social Attitudes Survey .  Files are accessible from UKDS: the list of currently available waves is on British Social Attitudes links 1983 onwards.  I am currently working on tutorials using data from the 2011 wave and from the 2009 to 2014 waves in the cumulative file.   Some of these are already available on page 3.2 Three (or more) variables and in 4.2.1  Income differences – Statistical significance

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Data sets used in Survey Analysis

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mais dados de inquéritos diversos no UK

Raw data sets are exactly as they would arrive from the fieldwork agency or from institutional data-prep services (in 80-column ASCII format, fixed width font).

SPSS saved files for British Social Attitudes 1986 and 1989 and Quality of Life in Britain are initial files only.  Variables in the BSA series are (re-) named using the positional naming convention.  There are no mnemonic names and no derived variables, but these will be generated during the exercises.  These files have full permissions for use and distribution.

SPSS (19, 21 and 22) can open *.sav and *.sps files downloaded from this site and also save them to a drive on your computer.  Earlier tutorials and exercises require you to define a few variables, read in raw data and add  dictionary information, then save the files. However, for surveys with dozens, if not hundreds, of variables, this would be too onerous a requirement,  especially for beginners.  Later tutorials and exercises will need access to much larger saved files containing hundreds of variables and thousands of cases.

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Playground to Politics

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Dados de um questionário a 50 professores londrinos.

A study of values and attitudes among fifth formers in a North London comprehensive school.

This survey of teenage attitudes and opinions in a North London comprehensive school (11-18 mixed) was designed and conducted, under my guidance and supervision, by three of my sophomore students as part of their group research dissertation for BA Applied Social Studies (Social Research) at the Polytechnic of North London (PNL, now part of London Metropolitan University).  . It aimed to discover something about pupils’ future expectations and awareness of, and attitudes towards, various current social issues and problems, particularly racism and sexism. It replicates various items and scales from other work (Wilson-Patterson, Eysenck, Himmelweit, Srole-Christie) particularly the St Paul’s Girls senior pupils study (Feb 1973) some of which were also used in the SSRC Survey Unit Quality of Life surveys 1971-75.

The self-completion questionnaire was completed in December 1981 by all fifth form pupils present on the day of the survey (N=142).  It was administered during time-tabled Social Studies classes and, time permitting, was followed by discussion with class teachers and the PNL students of the issues covered in the survey.

Given the particularly high quality of this project, a user manual was prepared by John Hall and Alison Walker for use with the postgraduate Survey Analysis Workshop and the undergraduate course Data Management and Analysis. It serves as model documentation for similar small survey projects.


Quality of Life: Measurement and methodology

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Alguma informação sobre a qualidade de vida na inglaterra

I have recently been making extensive revisions in the area of Subjective Social Indicators and it now makes more sense to split the page into three sections.  Previous contents of his page have now been spread across several new pages.

Quality of Life: Measurement and methodology
There has been intense  (often polemical) debate over the years on methodology and measurement of  the concept “Quality of Life” and there is a variety of working definitions deriving from diverse academic disciplines and political perspectives.  This page lists sources of philosophical and disciplinary arguments for and against quantitative research on subjective social indicators.

Measures of psychological well-being
This page will list scales to measure psychological well-being, tried and tested in the field on general populations.  Scales tested on students will not be listed, unless they have also been used on general populations.  See also:

SSRC Survey Unit Quality of Life in Britain surveys 1971 – 1975
Summary information and detailed abstracts on all “Quality of Life in Britain” surveys conducted at the SSRC Survey Unit between 1971 and 1975 by Mark Abrams and John Hall. (Variables, fieldwork, sampling, facsimile questionnaires, user-manuals, data sets, publications.)


What is a survey?

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Alguns recursos sobre estudos por inquérito.

This section covers survey methods in general and has links to useful resources, but there are no learning materials as such.

For a good general introduction, see What is a survey? (American Statistical Association booklet, 68 pp., 2004 by Fritz  Scheuren: combines as chapters a series of separate earlier pamphlets starting with What is a survey? by Robert Ferber, Chair, Paul Sheatsley, Anthony Turner and Joseph Waksberg, ASA, 1980 )

Flow diagram of the stages of a survey (from page 8 of Scheuren above).  These days we should perhaps add a Stage 7: Secondary analysis


Summary guide to SPSS tutorials

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Bom site com vários recursos sobre a utilização do IBM SPSS

Catalogue of SPSS tutorials is an Excel *.xlms file containing a full listing (with hyperlinks) of all tutorial files.[may not be completely up-to-date]

Guide to pop-out menus shows all the screenshots for menus and sub-menus for Survey  Analysis Workshop [may not be completely up-to-date and site has been re-organised, so needs a re-write, but still useful to show you what to expect]

There are more than 600 pages of downloadable tutorials arranged in four blocks.

Block  1: From questionnaire to SPSS saved file

1.1:   The language of survey analysis
1.2:   How do data relate to questionnaires?
1.3:   Reading raw data into SPSS
1.4:   Completing your data dictionary
1.5:   Utilities [still in preparation]

Block 2:  Analysing one variable

2.1:   Nominal and ordinal variables
2.2:   Interval scale variables
2.3:   Data transformations

Block 3:  Analysing two variables (and sometimes three)

3.1   Contingency tables
3.2   Three variables
3.3    Multiple response
3.4    Comparing means
3.5:   Conditional transformations

Block 4:   Hypothesis testing
[Still in preparation: provisional contents listed below: page also has links to some useful resources for statistical concepts]

Hypothesis testing
4.2a  t-test and one way anova
4.2b  Testing differences between three or more means
4.3  Chi-square (has one tutorial)
4.4  Regression and correlation
4.5  Association, structure and cause

SPSS files and documentation used for tutorials and exercises

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UK Data Service

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Bom site com muitos data sets de grande dimensão. Assuntos relacionados com censos e inquéritos.

Explore the UK’s largest collection of social, economic and population data resources.

See more

Video tutorials

See our growing range of training videos

Data types

See more

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