Using custom tables in SPSS

April 3, 2021

SPSS has many powerful procedures for analyzing data. In most cases, you will find several dialog boxes that provide almost similar functionality. Other dialog boxes, such as the custom tables provide an expansive set of capabilities in the area of data analyses. The custom tables feature is very helpful when you have to summarize many variables at the same time. With it, you can produce summary tables for single variables, as well as relationships between any combination of types of variables.

Watch the tutorial video below:

Video transcript

Hi and welcome to yet another tutorial video for data analysis in SPSS.
In this video, I will be showing you one of the very powerful features for summarizing data in SPSS – the custom tables
So by now, you probably already know that you can calculate frequencies for categorical variables… and summary statistics like mean and standard deviation for scale variables … using the frequency procedure.

If you don’t know how to do that yet, make sure to check out my video “SPSS in 15 minutes” .The link s right there at the corner and in the description below.
You also should be familiar with crosstabulations and mean comparisons which I covered in the video “Exploring relationships between variables. The link should be right in the description below as well.
Now custom tables is a swiss knife for all of that! In Microsoft Excel it’s called a pivot table, but in SPSS it’s just custom tables.

You can create any kind of summary table be it frequencies for a single variable or relationships between any kind of variable with it.
Custom tables are my go-to functionality when I have to summarize a lot of variables at once especially when I have a large survey on my hands.
Without further ado, let’s jump in and create some custom tables.
You will find the data set I am using here in the description below, so go ahead and download it so we can be moving together
To get to the custom tables, go to the menu and click Analyze
Custom tables
To build a custom table, you simply drag a variable and drop it where you want it to go, whether in the rows or in the columns, or even inside another variable, which I will show you shortly.
Let’s drop sex of child in the rows
By default, we have the count, which w also know as the frequency.
Let’s ran this for now
So now, we have a simple frequency table
Let’s go back and see what else we can have
Analyze…. Tables… Custom tables
Now, before you ran the custom table procedure, it is advisable to make sure that you have set the measurement levels of the variables properly.

When we dropped the sec of child variable in the rows, it knew to break down the variable into it’s categories and use the count as a statistics because the variable has been designated as a categorical variable – specifically a nominal variable
The cool thing with the custom table dialog box is that we can change the measurement levels right on the variables list
For example, I want to use the Parents Highest Education variable below the Sex of child variable, but look what happens when I do that
Notice here we have this placement marker, make sure it’s right below the sex of child variable
Now look, instead of having categories of highest education, it has added a column for the mean instead. And why is that? Well parents highest education has been assigned as a scale variable so it’s trying to summarize it using the mean
Let’s drag it back to the variable list
Now let’s change the measurement type.
Right-click the variable from here
We know it’s an ordinal variable so lets pick ordinal
Now we drop it back
I will also add the birth weight class below this variable
We have already see that we have the counts as summary statistics. But customs tables have hundreds other summary statistics you can use
First, we click any one of the variables in the rows
Then click summary statistics here
Here in the Statistics box, behold the statistics galore
What you see here by default are simply the categories of the different stats that you can use
If you need percentages for the each of the categories, you expand the column percent category
So for example I will drag and drop the Column N %
That’s fine for now. Click Apply to all
Close this
I say this is the best table to summarize all your demographics at once and just paste it into your report
Let’s go back and see what more we can do with this
So far we have only been summarizing each variable individually.
But with the custom tables, we can also cross tabulate by simply dragging a categorical variable into the columns.
I will grab the birth weight class variable
Now notice how as we move it, we see the red placement marker. So we can drop this variable outside of any of the other variables…
Or on top to replace the variable…
Or Inside to disaggregate the other variable further…
Or at the top where we want it t be…
Great. Let’s click OK now
In just a few clicks, we have a crosstabulation with column percentages.
Apart from frequency counts and percentages, we can also calculate summary statistics for continuous variables with customs tables
Let’s go back to the dialog box
For this example, let’s reset the dialog box
Would you like o reset all tabs? Yes that’s right
Now, l will drag and drop sex of child into the rows
Then, I will drag and drop Child birth weight, right after the sex of child variable
Notice how, instead of the count, we now have the mean
Let’s go to summary statistics and add more statistics
I will expand the count category
Let’s drop the count in there
Then scroll down to the end
I need the standard deviation from here
That’s fine. Click Apply to selection…
The close…
Let’s run this…
Awesome, now we have a mean comparison of child birth weight by sex
Let’s go back and add something else
This time, let’s move the sex of child variable to the columns…
Then, we will change the measurement level of the parents highest education variable to Ordinal…
Now drag the variable right before the child birth weight variable…
And click OK
Now we have mean comparison of child birth wight, by ex of child, by parents highest education
Checkout the link in the description below for many more custom tables you can produce using the data, and use that for your practice.
There are more great SPSS tutorials coming to the channel, so make sure you have clicked the subscribe button and turn on the bell button to never miss anything.
All the best as you practice

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