Option 1. Of course there are IBM/SPSS's Statistical Support pageswhich include

  • a searchable database with thousands of Q and A's. 
  • Statistical Articles addressing various topics of interest to SPSS users (e.g. why is my Coefficient Alpha negative?),
  • Algorithms used by SPSS to calculate statistics. (This is also on the CDROM)
  • Macros written mostly by SPSS
  • Keywords archives
  • Script exchange a collection of scripts written by SPSS or by users
  • SPSS Developer's Guide (for people writing scripts; contains code examples. This is also on the CDROM)
  • SPSS Patches
  • Books which may be purchased from SPSS
  • Download a free pdf copy of SPSS Programming and Data Management

Option 2. The Help menu ;-) This is actually more useful than many people think. You should, at least once,  go through all the "books" in the Contents Tab of the HELP>TOPICS window. The last "book" covers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on 10 different topics ranging from "Opening Data Files" and "Saving Data and Results" to "Memory and Performance"

Option 3. The spssbase.pdf file (which you will find using Help>Syntax Guide>Base or on your SPSS CD).

This file is very useful, it is always open when I work with SPSS. It is the electronic version of the "Syntax Reference Guide" book which is available from SPSS. However, I know that users need some time to get used to either versions.

The second CD of version 12 includes pdf versions of the following manuals

  • SPSS Advanced Models 12.0
  • SPSS Base User's Guide 12.0
  • SPSS Brief Guide 12.0
  • SPSS Categories 11.0 
  • SPSS Complex Samples 12.0
  • SPSS Conjoint 8.0
  • SPSS Exact Tests 7.0
  • SPSS Interactive Graphics 10.0
  • SPSS Maps 10.0
  • SPSS Missing Value Analysis 12.0
  • SPSS Regressions Models 12.0
  • SPSS Tables 11.5
  • SPSS Trends 10.0

Option 4. The SPSSX-L mailing list (see also How do I subscribe?)

  • A mailing list is managed by a list server (listserv for short). People must register with the listserv in order to receive a copy of the postings. Each time somebody sends an email to the list, everybody who has registered receives a copy of the message. When a person on the list sends a reply to the list, everybody receives a copy. This is a very effective method of communication. There are usually between 1,000 and 1,200 persons registered with the SPSSX-L listserv including some SPSS employees (even though the list is not managed by and does not "belong to" SPSS). The number of postings averages about 350 per month.
  • Messages (postings) to the list are archived and may be searched.
  • I highly recommend participation to this list to anybody who wants to improve his/her knowledge of SPSS.

Option 5. The newsgroup comp.soft-sys.stat.spss

  • This newsgroup includes more than 23,000 posting. The answer to your question may already be there.
  • If you are not familiar with newsreaders such as FreeAgent  I would recommend that you use google (I do not recommend Outlook). It is very easy to search archives or post messages using google.
  • Personally I use a newsreader to send and read posting but I use google to search for past posting.
  • The main advantage of using a newsreader is that you can create folders for different categories of topics and keep interesting articles for future reference.

My general experience is that no company can beat the "service" that its users are giving to each other via mailing lists or newsgroups. In other words, if you send a question to both support and to the above newsgroup/mailing list at the same time, the odds are that you will already have received the answer when SPSS gives it to you. This is not a criticism of the quality of SPSS support.

Option 6. This web site happyFace2.gif (633 bytes)

  • Consult the Sample Syntax, Macro or Scripts pages or Search at the Home Page for key words.
  • As a last resort, send me an email. I read all emails but I do not necessarily answer all of them (there are only 24 hours in a day!). I give preference to problems which I find interesting or new. If I you do not get a reply, it is not because I do not "like" you...However, considering that I monitor the SPSSX-L list and the newsgroup, your best bet is to ask your question through those medium. You then have many more persons who are likely to answer your question (including some SPSS employees). Such solutions also become "naturally" available to the whole community of SPSS'ers. This is consistent with the motto of the defunct dejanews site: Share what you know, learn what you don't.

Published: Dec. 2, 2005