R for SPSS Users: A Short Course

An 8-Hour Livestream Seminar Taught by Christopher L. Aberson, Ph.D.

Download Sample Course Slides

In just 8 hours (over 2 days), you will learn how to convert SPSS workflow into R code from the perspective of an instructor who is a long-time user of both programs. 

SPSS users in the social sciences and other fields are migrating to R. However, R approaches sometimes do not address common tasks relevant to SPSS users or recognize processes and workflow common to SPSS users.

This course will address the following issues:

  • How does SPSS terminology correspond to R terminology (i.e., translations between the two approaches)
  • How to import data from major software packages
  • Basic differences between the R environment and SPSS
  • How to perform common SPSS data visualizations, analyses, and modeling in R
  • Manipulating and cleaning data

This course addresses these issues and numerous practical one that allow attendees to move seamlessly from SPSS to R.

Starting November 21, we are offering this seminar as an 8-hour synchronous*, livestream workshop held via the free video-conferencing software Zoom. Each day will consist of two 2-hour lecture sessions which include hands-on exercises, separated by a 30-minute break. You are encouraged to join the lecture live, but will have the opportunity to view the recorded session later in the day if you are unable to attend at the scheduled time.

*We understand that finding time to participate in livestream courses can be difficult. If you prefer, you may take all or part of the course asynchronously. The video recordings will be made available within 24 hours of each session and will be accessible for four weeks after the seminar, meaning that you will get all of the class content and discussions even if you cannot participate synchronously. 

Closed captioning is available for all live and recorded sessions. Captions can be translated to a variety of languages including Spanish, Korean, and Italian. For more information, click here.

More Details About the Course Content

This course takes the perspective of the SPSS users. SPSS users know how to carry out their preferred analyses in SPSS. However, in moving to R, analysis approaches, workflows, and output often differ from R defaults. This course teaches you how to derive all of statistics common to SPSS (and commonly reported) in R.

This course is hands-on. There are regular exercises to ensure understanding and online help for those who get stuck. You are encouraged to bring your own data and post questions about translating your SPSS-focused analyses to R.

This seminar will familiarize you with using R through the RStudio interface and demonstrate how to smoothly transition to working in the R environment. You will leave with course materials including detailed examples of all common social science analyses and approaches.


To engage with hands-on exercises, you will need to have a current version of R and RStudio installed on your computer. Both are free and available on all major platforms. Prior to the course, attendees will receive detailed instructions for installation on Windows and Macintosh platforms.

Who should register?

This course is for SPSS users who want to move to the R environment. It is designed for attendees who want to transition to R seamlessly with a minimal learning curve.


Introduction to the R computing environment

  • Basics of code structure
  • Tour of RStudio set up and features

Importing data

  • Viewing data in RStudio
  • Hands on work focused on importing data

Introduction to packages

  • Installing packages
  • Useful packages
  • Errors that occur when installing packages and how to fix them

Importing SPSS (and other) files

  • Hands on work importing an SPSS file and installing and loading packages
  • Overview of strategies for importing other data formats
  • How to point functions to data

Basic data visualizations

  • Histograms
  • Bar charts
  • Scatterplots
  • Boxplots
  • Hands-on work with graphs (note: this is a nice starting point for commands as most find commands like hist(var) straightforward)

Data types

  • Review of SPSS data types (scale, ordinal, nominal)
  • Drawing connections between SPSS data types R data types
  • Common problems and solutions – e.g., factors imported as numbers, factor levels in wrong order

Introduction to data manipulation

  • Review of common SPSS tasks such as select cases, transform-compute, recode, create summary scores
  • Carrying out common SPSS tasks in R
  • Hands-on work with data

Descriptive statistics

  • CT and dispersion
  • Skew, Kurtosis
  • Percentiles
  • Frequencies
  • Hands on work running various descriptive measures

Correlations/Simple linear regression

  • Pearson’s correlation approaches
  • Work with scatterplots
  • Linear regression
  • Adding regression lines to scatterplots
  • Hands on work

Chi-square tests and variations

  • Goodness of Fit and Test of Independence
  • Frequency/Proportion tables
  • Effect sizes
  • Hands on work with Chi-square including installing lsr package

ANOVA basics

  • One factor and factorial
  • Descriptive for ANOVA
  • Graphs for ANOVA (Introduction to GGPlot2)*
  • Setting up R for factorial ANOVA to match SPSS settings*
  • Getting information out of the ANOVA via summary
  • Hands on work with ANOVA

Multiple regression

  • Basic output
  • Getting additional statistics (e.g., standardized coefficients)*
  • Assumption plots
  • Hands on work with MR

*Time permitting. However, materials and annotated code for these topics will be provided.

Reviews of R for SPSS Users

“I liked that this course acknowledged the weirdness of some aspects of R and drew attention to how to resolve them. I appreciated that there was an opportunity for a lot of hands-on work. This was like the fourth R course I’ve taken, and I think this is the one that has finally gotten things to click for me. The comprehensive slides were fabulous!”
  Sam Garbers, Northeastern University

“Dr. Aberson’s slides and examples were well organized so it was easy to follow along. If I got lost or distracted, I could open the slide deck he had shared in advance and re-read what I missed. This seminar was super well-timed to get what we needed to get done in exactly the right amount of time.”
  Catherine Walker, Union College

“This course was a very good mixture of theory and practice. It was very helpful to have the recorded videos before the next day.”
  Reinhard Kubale, University Hospital

“I liked the pace of the course. Sometimes I attend courses where the instructor starts out very basic and then jumps to extremely complex things and seems to skip everything in the middle. Chris did a nice job of taking things step by step.”
  Jay Ringle, Boys Town

“I liked the practical introduction to R from an SPSS user perspective.”
  Judith van der Waerden, INSERM

“I appreciated that the material was made parallel to SPSS.”
  Mitchell Berman, Mississippi State University

Seminar Information

Thursday, November 21 –
Friday, November 22, 2024

Daily Schedule: All sessions are held live via Zoom. All times are ET (New York time).

10:30am-12:30pm (convert to your local time)

Payment Information

The fee of $695 includes all course materials.

PayPal and all major credit cards are accepted.

Our Tax ID number is 26-4576270.