PSPP - A Basic Tutorial

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Brief Abstract

PSPP is a free alternative to SPSS, created by the Free Software Foundation. It includes many, but not all, of the features found in SPSS. This tutorial includes a subset of the 2018 General Social Survey (GSS) for use in conjunction with the software.

Extended Abstract

PSPP is a statistical analysis program made available at no charge to users by the Free Software Foundation. There are two versions: the “syntax” version and the less comprehensive but more user-friendly GUI (Graphic User Interface) version. This tutorial, written primarily for beginning students, describes the GUI version.

PSPP is similar to SPSS. SPSS (officially IBM SPSS Statistics) has, through many iterations and over many years, served as a widely used standard for analyzing quantitative data. The name “SPSS” originally stood for “Statistical Package for the Social Sciences.” So successful was it, that it was widely adopted in business and other fields outside social science. Eventually it became known simply by its initials (just as many people refer to “IBM” without knowing, or caring, that these initials originally referred to “International Business Machines.”)

The authors of this tutorial have used SPSS in their teaching and research, and continue to consider it extremely useful. It has become increasingly so for undergraduate instruction as, over time, it has become much more user-friendly, so that even students with no background in statistical analysis can master it as part of a single introductory research methods or statistics course. It has also added more and more features, notably including the ability to produce a wide range of graphs.

Despite its many advantages, one thing that SPSS is not is free. As of this writing, the cost of a base subscription to SPSS starts at $99 per month! This need not trouble you if you are a student at a college or university that has purchased a site license. Even if this is not the case, you can obtain a special version available only to faculty and students at a deep discount. But still not free. (Check or other vendors for details.)

In this tutorial, we’ll be using a subset of the 2018 General Social Survey (GSS) for use in conjunction with the software. The GSS is a biannual national survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, and used for teaching and research in a variety of disciplines since 1972. We’ve created a subset of the 2018 survey. A version that can be read by PSPP can be downloaded here.