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Date:         Fri, 16 Mar 2012 15:53:30 +0000
Reply-To:     "Poes, Matthew Joseph" <>
Sender:       "SPSSX(r) Discussion" <SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From:         "Poes, Matthew Joseph" <>
Subject:      Re: In support of CTABLES
Comments: To: John F Hall <>
Comments: cc: Bruce Weaver <>
In-Reply-To:  <010301cd038c$0cfceee0$26f6cca0$@fr>
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;

Hey John, That all sounds great. I'll certainly take a look at your tutorials when I have some time. I hope you do enjoy your retirement, and sorry to hear it must be on a fractional pension. I've learned greatly from the wisdom and experience of people like you over the years. Being a software expert is nothing if you don't know how to apply it. My technical knowledge has far surpassed many of my mentor's over the years, and at the moment (I don't consider this to be saying much), is the greatest in the unit I work with, but I still learn greatly from the people around me with far more years of practical experience. Understanding the logic which underlies these programs is key to interpreting the output you see. Had it not been for people like yourself in my own life, I'm sure I would have made far more mistakes and had many of them make it to the public.

Matthew J Poes Research Data Specialist Center for Prevention Research and Development University of Illinois 510 Devonshire Dr. Champaign, IL 61820 Phone: 217-265-4576 email:<>

From: John F Hall [] Sent: Friday, March 16, 2012 10:47 AM To: Poes, Matthew Joseph; SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU Cc: 'Bruce Weaver' Subject: RE: In support of CTABLES


I think you may have missed a later exchange with Jon which may address your concerns.

I totally agree with you, but I always put myself in the place of a na´ve user seeing something for the first time. At 4 o'clock this morning I was possibly a little slower than usual but the route I took with the GUI was probably typical of student beginners in social and political sciences.

I've nothing against the GUI and I use it to save time when it's quicker (which isn't often for basic operations and analysis) but the CT syntax generated that way for MR was daunting to me, let alone the sort of students I used to teach. If I've forgotten the exact syntax I open the CSR (and sometimes leave it open during SPSS sessions).

The pedagogic approach adopted in my courses must have had some merit as many students still write in appreciation 20 or more years after I retired: seven of them are now full Professors in UK universities and many others occupy senior research positions. However this may have more to do with being taught by practicing researchers than being exposed to SPSS syntax (GUI didn't exist in those days).

I have continued this approach in updating and converting the courses for SPSS for Windows. I do this because, whilst there are many survey methods courses around using SPSS as a basis, they tend to be oriented more to sampling error, mathematical statistics and statistical modelling than to the actual substance of the research and the logic and process of addressing substantive research questions using data from questionnaire surveys. As John Tukey once said, "All the statistics in the world won't save you if you asked the wrong question in the first place." And as my old boss Mark Abrams used to say, "If it's worth saying, it's worth saying in percentages." However I suspect he would have been just as happy, if not more, with the graphics now available.

If I can fit CT into this approach I certainly will, but it will take many steps and many screenshots to explain the journey and the resulting syntax. Meanwhile I still have around half of the course materials to convert and update. When I have finished using survey data from the 1970s and 1980s, I can begin to think about more recent material from the BSA, the ESS and ONS well-being surveys as well as the GSS.

What would be interesting would be to see what beginning students and researchers actually do (keystrokes, mouse movements and viewer output) and how long it takes them, when they use SPSS to perform a set of standard exercises. We did something like this in the 1970s when we got ULCC to pin a questionnaire to all SPSS output in which errors had occurred. This was to check whether SPSS had accurately identified the source of any errors, and what the actual error was. I don't have a copy of the report, but there was a short article in the ULCC Newsletter by Cathie Marsh and John Utting which might be interesting to compare with today's much improved and less confusing, mostly user-friendly error messages.

Finally, perhaps you should actually have a look at some of my tutorials, starting with page: and then by having a look at The first slideshow is quite fun and not covered in the main presentation. I'd appreciate your comments and suggestions.

All my materials are available for free download. Also I'm working on my own with no institutional affiliation or support, and on a fractional pension. Some of my closest professional colleagues have recently passed away: I hope that, before my own time comes, my site can help share with others something of the knowledge and skills I have acquired, and of the thrills I have enjoyed, as a survey researcher since 1965.

Incidentally, although I've been using SPSS since 1972, on dozens if not hundreds of data sets, I've never written any code except for a suite of survey analysis programs in Algol in the 1960's (input and output on 8-hole paper tape).

Meanwhile, I have a large garden to prepare for planting, a building extension to finish and a backlog of 400+ films recorded from (UK) TV to catch up on. Who said retirement was boring?


John Hall

Email:<> Website:<> Skype: surveyresearcher1 Phone: (+33) (0)


From: Poes, Matthew Joseph []<mailto:[]> Sent: 16 March 2012 14:39 To: 'John F Hall'; 'SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU' Subject: RE: In support of CTABLES

John, I agree with you that new students need to learn how to code logic into SPSS. It's important to understand what these programs are doing. As long as students understand that in the real world, if using SPSS, they will likely use a canned module within the program to do these same functions, then learning the logic that underlies it is fine (just as learning to hand write a regression and solve).

However, I know you have considerably more experience with both SPSS and coding than I do, but I learned MRSETs in a matter of 30 minutes or so, and had a working understanding of CTables in probably the same time. I've only been working with the two actively for about 2 years now, but find them supremely easy to use. While I frequently make my CTables through the interface, instead of syntax, I can write my CTables via syntax without issue (it's just much quicker to let SPSS do it for me). In terms of MRsets, I always write this in syntax, and it doesn't take me long at all.

If nothing else, its very easy to make mistakes in long and complicated code, but the code for CTables and MRsets is not long and complicated unless your needs are long and complicated. Debugging this is a non-issue. I really don't understand why it took you so long to learn, why you are so resistant to them, and why you continue to post these disparaging remarks. I happen to love Ctables and MRsets in SPSS because I find they have made my life much easier. I was honestly shocked to find someone disagree with that. Maybe the issue is that we are each used to different things, and as a result what I am finding "time saving" you are finding "complicated."

I would be surprised if, in time, you didn't find Ctables to be a giant improvement over the old tables system, in terms of flexibility. While memorizing all of the possible code is daunting (I certainly have not myself) I find it easy to figure out.

Matthew J Poes Research Data Specialist Center for Prevention Research and Development University of Illinois 510 Devonshire Dr. Champaign, IL 61820 Phone: 217-265-4576 email:<>

From: SPSSX(r) Discussion [mailto:SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of John F Hall Sent: Friday, March 16, 2012 12:27 AM To: SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> Subject: Re: In support of CTABLES


You made no mention of the MRSETS command.

It took me well over an hour to sort this out, and I know my way round SPSS reasonably well. Beginning students would clearly take much longer or give up altogether. To prepare a new tutorial for such students would take an unconscionably long time.

Much of my time was spent wading throught the CSR where nothing in CTABLES explaining MRSETS and it doesn't refer you to the separate MRSETS command. I discovered this by trying to run Analyze > Mult Response > Define ... before being pointed to Data > Define MR sets. (it didn't help that Mult Resp is buried at the bottom of the Analyze list.) I used PASTE from Data > Define MR sets to see the syntax generated.

MRSETS /MCGROUP NAME=$prej VARIABLES=v608 v610 v612 /DISPLAY NAME=[$prej].

. .and ran your syntax substituting my own vars.

CTABLES /TABLE $prej BY v575.

Q.70e: How [prejudiced] would you describe yourself?

Very prejudiced

A little prejudiced

Not prejudiced





























West Indians








Other specified




Against all races




This proves the late Professor Sir Roger Jowell's contention that, "The verb to be prejudiced has no first person singular!" This was actually because V575 was a filter question and the question about groups prejudiced against was not asked of people who claimed not to be prejudiced. In cases like this it is sometimes useful to display the data in descending order of frequencies: can that be done in MR?

Being curious I then went into CTables to see what syntax was generated (Nice surprise to see mock-up tables to indicate what the output would contain!) . . to get the same table, but the generated syntax would, like the spider, have frightened Miss Muffitt and my students away.


Anyway, thanks for the tip about shortened syntax for CTABLES. Some of the possibilities in the CSR seem promising. I'll play around with the format and contents to see if I can produce the kind of tables I used to recommend to students, but which couldn't be produced by SPSS. These would include tables with row % and a single base N on the same row (ie not two rows as in crosstabs) and tables to illustrate Lazarsfeldian elaboration as per Rosenberg.

John (with an h) Hall

Email:<> Website:<> Skype: surveyresearcher1 Phone: (+33) (0)

From: SPSSX(r) Discussion [mailto:SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]<mailto:[mailto:SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]> On Behalf Of Jon K Peck Sent: 15 March 2012 21:43 To: SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> Subject: Re: In support of CTABLES

CTABLES has elaborate, although logical, syntax for complicated things. For simple things, it's as simple as it gets: CTABLES /TABLE x BY y.

And for an MR set, CTABLES /TABLE $x BY y.

Jon Peck (no "h") aka Kim Senior Software Engineer, IBM<> new phone: 720-342-5621


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