Learning how to use a new statistical GUI?

The question is in the header, but I would extend the context a bit.

Next semester I am due to be a teaching assistant (TA) in a course in statistics, where I would need to help sociology students learn to use SPSS. I don’t know SPSS, yet, and would like to learn how to use it.

I was thinking of taking a simple dataset, and start reviewing it with methods I know, thus starting to map out where are methods I know of. And once finished, to try and explore more options.

Can someone propose other/better strategies to master a new statistical graphical user interface (GUI)? (in my case SPSS, but it could apply to many other GUI’s).


As someone who made the shift the other way from SPSS to R, I’d say that SPSS is relatively simple and intuitive relative to R. The menus and dialog boxes guide you through the process. Of course this means that it is also fairly easy to run analyses that don’t make sense. And the GUI leads to less flexible analyses and tedious button pressing especially for repetitive analyses.

Thus, your approach of taking a dataset and just playing around might be sufficient.

There’s plenty of how-to books out there, such as:

  • Discovering Statistics Using SPSS
  • SPSS Survival Manual

There’s also plenty of websites offering tutorials:

I’d also recommend that if you are teaching students about SPSS, you encourage them to use syntax. Using SPSS syntax is not as good as using technologies like R and Sweave.
However, using syntax is much better than just pressing menus and buttons in an ad hoc way and then wondering later what you’ve actually done.
I wrote a post listing tips for using SPSS syntax in order to approximate reproducible research with SPSS.

Source : Link , Question Author : Community , Answer Author :
Jeromy Anglim

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