INDEX BY: Edition / Title
SPSS for Social Scientists
By R.L. Miller, C. Acton, D.A. Fullerton and J. Maltby.
Published in 2002 by Palgrave Macmillan
352pp ISBN 0-333-92286-7 £16.99

SPSS for Social Scientists

SPSS for Social Scientists is a step-by-step comprehensive guide to data analysis using SPSS, which will provide a reader with a systematic approach from data entry to analysis by simple techniques through to more complex ones. It provides a considerable number of clearly explained worked examples using easily accessible data from a variety of sources which should be applicable to a wide range of users from different disciplines. It however is more suitable for the analyst who is working on their own and has an interest and requirement to master these techniques, rather than undergraduate students who will probably have academic support and who may find the explanations over verbose to hold their attention when data analysis is not a technique that they initially find interesting or relevant at certain points in their studies.

The book begins with an introduction to statistical analysis, which places the quantitative approach within the context of social science research and explains clearly the quantitative perspective. This section is clear and easy to read using everyday situations and should encourage the reader to realise that there is a place for quantitative analysis in all research. The second chapter is an introduction to the basic features of SPSS such as the features of the data view and variable view windows.

The following text is divided into modules, the first three concentrate on data entry and the others on specific aspects of data analysis from simple t-tests to the more complex such as loglinear analysis. Each module focuses on a single statistical procedure. Each individual step that is required to be performed by the user is explained in detail, with clear illustrations showing what actually appears on the screen. This is of great advantage to the reader who may be approaching computer analysis of data for the first time and hesitant in their approach.

The practice data set used in this text is taken from the British Social Attitudes Survey. The use of data from a source that is accessible is a valuable asset since the reader is not required to spend large amounts of time inputting data to practice carrying out the various types of data analysis and provides a large data set which will give meaningful results. Apart from working through the examples given the reader is encouraged to carry out exercises at the end of each section on their own. This will help familiarise the user with the various forms of data analysis and assist them in generating their own practises.

Within the first module on data input there is a valuable section on inputting data from a variety of sources other than directly onto the data editor, such as importing from database spread sheets and text files. This will be useful for those who already may have their data in some other form, such as Excel, already in the computer.

The section on listing and exploring data provides the user with practice in using SPSS for simple tasks and assists them in becoming familiar with the data, each concept or terminology is explained clearly for example measures of central tendency, the mean, medium and mode are described with a simple explanation of each.

Data selection and manipulation demonstrates clearly the importance of entering detailed raw data, which can then be manipulated into groups for specific analysis at a later stage if required.

The following seven modules are concerned with statistical testing. At the beginning of each chapter there is provided a short introduction explaining the underlying reasons for each type of test and what the test is designed to achieve. These are written in non-statistical terms and should provide the reader with a clear explanation of the process and the types of problems that each test can answer.

The initial procedures considered are the simple t –tests and cross tabulation. These are both covered in great detail especially the cross tabulation which not only illustrates Chi-square tests but also introduces measures of association and control variables. For the user this may take them on a very steep learning curve if they have little knowledge of statistics prior to using this book, however for the individual who has done some simple statistics previously this is excellent and described in a succinct manner with an excellent appendix to this chapter considering some of the most commonly used measures of association.

The section, which deals with analysis of variance, is particularly well explained leading from an introduction to this test followed by a simple ANOVA, the use of the Scheffe test for comparison and two-way analysis of variance. This clarity also applies to the later chapters on correlation and regression, factor analysis, log linear analysis and multiple response sets all of which are detailed in an easy to comprehend manner. The scatter diagrams provided are particularly clear in illustrating the text for correlation leading to the concept of causality, regression, which proceeds through simple regression to examples of multiple regression.

Unfortunately one area this book fails to cover is confidence intervals. These are now required by many refereed journals in preference to standard deviations and it would have been appropriate to include a section on these, although there are other texts available that cover an explanation of confidence intervals.

The price of this comprehensive guide (in the paper back edition) is well within the purchasing power of an individual and should be a valuable asset and reference book for all those involved in quantitative data analysis using SPSS.

This book would be extremely useful for individuals who have some prior knowledge of statistics or those that are working on their own, however the person who is a novice in data analysis may find this book rather overwhelming in the first instance since it is so comprehensive in the techniques that it covers.

Peggy Maxwell
Liverpool John Moores University