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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

SAS: Home

This guide provides a general overview of the SAS statistical software suite.

What is SAS?

SAS is a statistical software suite that is widely used in industry and academia for tasks related to data management and analysis. To use SAS, the user typically needs to write SAS programs. For most users this means a relatively high learning curve for the software. SAS does provide a graphical user interface which acts as a development environment for SAS code and provides tools for editing and interacting with data and SAS input and output.

Data and Procedure Steps

Every SAS program has two main steps:

  • The data step starts with the keyword "DATA" and is intended mainly for data processing. If a variable needs to be transformed in some way before performing a statistical procedure, this will be accomplished in the DATA step. Most importantly, the DATA step allows users to give their DATA a name that can be referred to in the procedure step.
  • The procedure step, which always starts with the keyword "PROC" allows the user to analyze and visualize data. This step allows tests to be performed, models to be created, and data to be visualized. 

Importing and Viewing your Data

The user interface allows for easy importation, viewing, and editing of data. To import data from a file go to File and click "Import Data." An Import Wizard will help you assign file type, location, and a workspace within SAS, allowing SAS to read the data. Once imported, the data can be viewed and edited by selecting it in the SAS workspace, which is accessible in the Explorer window that makes up the left part of the screen.

SAS Data Import screenshot.

Opening data in the explorer activates a view table window in which data can be viewed and edited cell by cell. This allows the user to easily create a tabular SAS dataset without having to import data from a file in the DATA step.

SAS data explorer

Additional Resources

Delwich, Lora D. and Susan J. Slaughter. The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fourth Edition. Cary, NC. SAS Institute Inc., 2008.

  • The Little SAS Book provides a comprehensive guide for getting started with SAS, including an in-depth look at the programming language the options available through the user interface.

Kleinman, Ken, and Nicholas J. Horton. SAS and R: Data Management, Statistical Analysis, and Graphics. Boca Raton, FL. CRC Press, 2010.

  • Kleinman and Horton's book provides examples in both SAS and R for many common data management, analysis, and visualization tasks. It also includes handy appendices that describe getting started in both languages.

Samuel, John. Getting Started with SAS for Windows. Research Technologies at Indiana University.

  • Samuel's online tutorial is an excellent introductory guide to writing code in SAS. While it doesn't cover everything SAS can do, it provides some depth of understanding into how SAS works.

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