SPSS Dictionary

It’s not informative that “a respondent has 0 on v1” unless you know what v1 and 0 refer to. Such information – what the data actually represent – is collectively know as the dictionary.

This tutorial merely explains what the SPSS dictionary is. For learning how to modify it properly (that is, by syntax), see Changing Variable Properties 1 – Introduction.

SPSS Dictionary – What is it?

  • The SPSS Dictionary is a part of an SPSS data file that holds all metadata. Literally, metadata is “data about the data”.
  • Metadata describes the real-world meaning of values, variables and files. The best known properties of the SPSS dictionary are probably variable labels and value labels.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of such information. In many cases, data are worthless in the absence of correct metadata.
  • The dictionary also holds more technical information on variables such as variable types and formats.

SPSS Dictionary Commands

  • Some commands refer directly to SPSS’ dictionary. An important one is DISPLAY DICTIONARY.which is extensively used by Create Dictionary Dataset.
  • Another example is APPLY DICTIONARY – which is basically what SPSS Clone Variables Tool does.
  • Commands for modifying variable properties also apply to the SPSS dictionary (instead of the actual data). For a handy overview, see our SPSS Dictionary Tutorials.

SPSS Dictionary – Complete Overview

Note: we tried to sort these properties from most to least important. “Optional” indicates whether a property can (technically) be absent.

NAME APPLIES TO FUNCTION IMPORTANCE OPTIONAL
variable name Variable Variable identifier. High No
Label Variable Normal language description of the meaning of variables. High Yes
Value Labels Value Normal language description of the meaning of values. High Yes
User Missing Values Value Tells SPSS which values to ignore in calculations. High Yes
Type Variable Tells SPSS how to store values internally. High No
Format Variable Tells SPSS how to display numeric values. High No
Document Data file Long data file description. Low Yes
Width Variable Maximum number of characters that values may consist of. Low No
Columns Variable Variable’s column width (as displayed on screen). Low No
Variable Attribute Variable Descriptive tags for variables. Low Yes
Datafile attribute Data file Data file description using arrays. Low Yes
File label Data file Short data file description. Low Yes
Align Variable Alignment of data values (on screen). Low No
Measure Variable Measurement level nominalordinal or scale (= metric). Low No
Role Variable The variable’s supposed relation to other variables. Low No