Name Variables on the SPSS Variable View Tab

By Keith McCormick, Jesus Salcedo, Aaron Poh

The cell on the far left of the Variable View tab in IBM SPSS Statistics is where you enter the name of the variable. Just click the cell and type a short descriptor, such as age, income, sex, or odor.

The Name cell is on the far left of the Variable View tab.
The Name cell is on the far left of the Variable View tab.

You can type longer names here, but you should keep them short because they’ll be used in named lists and as identifier tags on the data graphs and such — where the format can be a bit crowded. Names that are too long can cause the output from SPSS to be garbled or truncated.

If the name you assigned turns out to be too long or is misspelled, you can always change it on the Variable View tab. One of the nice things about SPSS is that you can correct mistakes quickly.

Here are some handy hints about names:

  • You can use some bizarre characters in a name, such as @, #, and $, as well as the underscore character (_) and numbers. But if you use screwy characters in a name, you may live to regret it. For one thing, you can’t start a variable name with these characters. Plus, they’ll remind expert users of special variables in some advanced features. An underscore in the middle of a name is a great way to make a name more readable, but otherwise, it’s best to keep your names simple.

  • Be sure to start every name with an uppercase or lowercase letter.

  • You can’t include blanks anywhere in a name, but an underscore is a good substitute.

If you want to export data to another application, make sure the names you use are in a form acceptable to that application. Watch out for special characters.