How to make SPSS produce all tables in APA format automatically!

Formatting a graph that was exported from SPSS to Microsoft Word can be an absolute pain. Since neither program is known "user-friendliness", the interaction between the two can be predictably tedious and frustrating. The process of converting a standard SPSS table to APA format can become overwhelming when you have an entire manuscript worth of tables. Fortunately, a few minor alterations to your SPSS settings can make SPSS do most of the heavily lifting for you, making SPSS automatically produce tables that closely resemble APA format and cutting down your formatting time by as much as 90%!

APA Format Table Example Before and After

APA Format Table Example Before and After

Pictured (above) are examples of standard SPSS tables (left) and tables produced in SPSS after a few adjustments (right) to the settings. The table on the right more closely aligns with APA format than the table on the left in several ways:

  • The title has been changed from center justified and bold to left justified, italics, and NOT bold ([1] above-right; APA format).
  • The table borders have been adjusted appropriately (details of specific changes to follow shortly).
  • The default font type and size has been changed to Times New Roman 12pt.

The adjustments to SPSS that are needed to produce tables like the ones on the right are only necessary to be made once, after which the adjustments are made automatically by SPSS and you'll find all of your future tables are ready for insertion into your APA manuscript immediately after analysis. The necessary changes can be accomplished in 3 steps:

  1. Produce an initial table for alteration (using any analysis; a simple frequency table is sufficient).
  1. Create a custom "Table Look Style", by "Editing" the initial table's "Look Style" and saving the changes as a custom "style" ("APA Table" seems like a reasonable choice).
  1. Adjust your SPSS settings (options) so that SPSS recognizes your newly created "Look Style" as the default table "Look Style".

From there, you can simply run your analyses as you typically would and your tables should be formatted in APA format. Let's get into the specifics about how to accomplish these three steps...

1) PRODUCE INITIAL TABLE

The first step to make your SPSS adjustment is to produce an initial table for editing. For our purposes, a simple frequency does the trick (in the SPSS drop-down menus, navigate to: Analyze>descriptives>frequencies). Once your table is produced (

below

), right click on the table and click on "Edit Content" and then either "In Viewer" or "In Separate Window" (it doesn't really matter which you choose, for our purposes).

SPSS Edit Content Menu

SPSS Edit Content Menu

Once your table is in "editing" mode (below), right click again and click on "TableLooks..."

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example 1
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example 1

Next, the "TableLooks" screen (below) should pop-up.

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example As Displayed
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example As Displayed

Under "TableLooks Files:", change the selection "CompactAcademicTimesRoman" ([1]below).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example CompactAcademicTimesNewRoman
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example CompactAcademicTimesNewRoman

While simply making that switch gets us a lot closer to APA format than the "default" SPSS table, we can improve the settings to get us much closer with a  few additional changes.

NOTE: "CompactAcademicTimesRoman" is the closest "TableLook" to APA on its own, but luckily we can alter its attributes and save the changes!

Once you've clicked on "CompactAcademicTimesRoman", click on the "Edit Look..." button ([2] above). After clicking on "Edit Look...", the "Table Properties" screen should pop-up (below).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Formats
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Formats

Within the "Table Properties" screen, we are going to adjust elements of both the "Cell Formats" tab (above) and the "Borders" tab ([1] below).

First, the "Cell Formats" tab (above):

On the "Cell Formats" screen, you are able to adjust: the tables "Text" (font), the "Alignment" (justifications) of the text, the background color (which we will not be adjusting), and the "Inner Margins". We will only be changing the "Text" and "Alignment" settings. We'll deal with the "Text" first.

The default of all text in SPSS tables is 8 pt ([4] above), while the appropriate APA format font is 12 point, so the first thing we'll need to to is change all of the text in the table from 8 pt ([4] above) to 12 pt.

  • Unfortunately, you are required to change each text element separately by either clicking on the element in the "Sample" table  on the right side of the screen ([1] above), or by selecting different elements in the "Area" drop-down menu ([2] above).

For example

, click on the "

Table Title

" (

[3]

above

)

in the "Sample" table to edit that element. After clicking on the element, simply adjust the attributes on the left side of th screen

NOTE

: to comply with APA format for table titles, change your font size from 8 pt. to 12 pt. (

[4]

above

), make it italics and not bold (

[5]

above)

, and click on "Left Alignment" (

[6]

above

]

)

Next, switch to the "Borders" tab ([1] below).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Borders
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Borders

Once in the "Borders" tab, there are three elements that we are going to adjust:

  1. Top inner frame ([2] above)
  1. Bottom inner frame
  1. Data area top

To adjust the "Top inner frame", highlight it in the Border menu section (

[1] below

). Next, click on the "Style" drop-down menu (

[2] below

) and change the style from the double line (not APA format) to the single thin line (

[3] below

; second from the bottom; complies with APA format).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Table Properties: Top Inner Frame
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Table Properties: Top Inner Frame

Next, repeat the style adjustment for the "Bottom inner frame" ([1] below).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Table Properties: Bottom Inner Frame 1
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Table Properties: Bottom Inner Frame 1

Again, repeat the style adjustment for the "Data area top" ([1] below).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Table Properties: Data Area Top
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Table Properties: Data Area Top

Next, click the "Apply" button ([2] above), followed by the "OK" button ([3] above).

2) CREATE CUSTOM TABLE LOOK STYLE

After clicking the "OK" button, you should find yourself back at the "TableLooks" screen ([1] below). On this screen click on "Save As" ([2] below).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell TableLooks Save As
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell TableLooks Save As

In the "Save As" dialogue screen (below), give your newly create table "Look" a name, preferably something self-explanatory and easy to remember. As you can see, I choose to call it "APA Table"([1] below).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell APA Table Save As
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell APA Table Save As

Before clicking "Save", make sure you are saving the "TableLook" file in the correct directory:

On a mac

, the "Looks" directory can be found in the "SPSS" folder (or PASWStatistics folder;

[1] below

) within "Applications" (

[2] below

).

On a PC, the "Looks" director can be found at C:>Documents and Settings> Program Files>SPSS

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Looks Directory Content: Save As
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example Cell Looks Directory Content: Save As

Once inside the "Looks" folder (below), you should see various other "TableLooks" files (the files end in ".stt"). If you see that, you know you are in the right folder. From here, check to make sure your "File Name" is what you want it to be and then click "Save" ([1] below).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Save AS: Save
SPSS TableLooks Screen Save AS: Save

After you've clicked "Save", you should find yourself back in the "TableLooks" dialogue screen (below). Also, you should now see a newly available "TableLook" in the "TableLook Files:" area ([1] below) (the one you saved above). Next, simply click on that to highlight it (1] below) and then click the "OK" button ([2] below).

SPSS TableLooks Screen Example 2
SPSS TableLooks Screen Example 2

After clicking "OK", the "TableLooks" screen should disappear and the initial table you created should again be visible, but its format should now reflect the changes we've made and it should more closely resemble APA format (below)!

SPSS Finished Product Example
SPSS Finished Product Example

While certainly you could choose to do all of those steps for every graph you produce from now until forever, that wouldn't seem to be a very efficient use of your time. Instead, let's change the default SPSS settings to automatically use our newly created "TableLook" for all tables that are created in the future.

3) ADJUST SPSS TABLE "LOOK STYLE" SETTINGS (OPTIONS)

To adjust the SPSS "TableLook" settings, go to "Options" ([1] below), which you'll find under the "Edit" menu.

SPSS Options Menu Example
SPSS Options Menu Example

With the "Options" dialogue screen now visible, select the "Pivot Tables" tab ([1] below). Next, select our newly created "Table Look" (I called mine "APA table"; [2] below).

On a side note, I'd also suggest changing the "Copying wide tables to the clipboard in rich text format" option ([3] below) to "Shrink width to fit". Making this change will prevent SPSS from wrapping tables that are too wide for your page to another row (making them appear as two tables, even though they are really just two parts of the same table). I personally find that very irritating. Instead, this will tell SPSS to adjust the width of the cells in the table so that the table can fit within the margins of the page.

Finally, click on the "Apply" button ([4] below), followed by the "OK" button ([5] below). You should now be done and all future graphs should be produced in APA format (or closer to it anyway). Happy table making!

SPSS Options Example: Pivot Tables
SPSS Options Example: Pivot Tables

RIGHT-CLICK HERE AND "SAVE AS FILE" TO DOWNLOAD THE STT "LOOKS" FILE

Update

on 2011-06-08 20:45 by Jeremy Taylor

A few sharp readers have made a great point about this post: If you have a version of SPSS that is licensed by a University, the instructions may not work. Specifically, when you try to create a "new look", it will likely display an error message that says you don't have "access" to the directory (or something like that). 

Thanks to one of our readers (Benjamin Telkamp), we have a solution! Benjamin discover that you can save the "new look" as one of the existing looks in SPSS (just pick one that you don't think you'll be needing). Thanks for the tip Benjamin! 


116 Comments

Jeremy J. Taylor

Stats Make Me Cry is owned and operated by Jeremy J. Taylor, Ph.D. Jeremy completed his doctoral training in Clinical Psychology at DePaul University and completed his pre-doctoral internship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. Although Jeremy's background is in Psychology, he consulted on dissertations for more than 100 students, from 13 countries, and from a variety of disciplines.