Topics in SAS Programming

The topics in this tutorial have been selected to represent some of the most important tools in SAS for working with complex survey data.   The focus is on the SAS data step language and some of the most basic SAS procedures you need to manipulate data in various ways, to manage it, and to prepare it for analysis.

Some knowledge of the SAS data step is assumed and can be reviewed in the first section "Review of the data step and how it works."  The remaining topics--retained variables, BY groups, merging, and SAS arrays--are presented without assuming prior knowledge of these concepts.  After introducing each concept with the simplest of examples, applications to real data are given.  The section "Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks" summarizes useful information on a variety of topics including the two different SAS work environments (batch and interactive), SAS options, and the Output Delivery System.

SAS's tech support site:

Browse Samples & SAS Notes

Example programs to do data management.

Browse the pages for your desired sample, and then click the "Full code" tab to see the program.

SAS's Technical Support page

SAS's online documentation

Other useful resources:



UNC-CH's introduction to SAS


UCLA's IDRE Stat website


Review of the data step and how it works

Retained variables

  • What is a retained variable?
  • RETAIN statement
  • Simple example using a retained variable

Working with grouped observations

  • What is a BY-group?
  • Real data examples of grouped observations
  • FIRST.byvariable and LAST.byvariable
  • Program examples using the FIRST.byvariable and LAST.byvariable
    • determining the uniqueness of an identifier variable
    • creating a household level variable from person level data

Combining data by merging

  • What is a match-merge?
  • MERGE statement
  • Examples of merging
  • The IN= variables
  • Program examples using the IN= variables

SAS arrays


Miscellaneous "Tips and Tricks"

SAS Work Environment

  • Batch
  • Windowing Environment (aka Display Manager)

SAS Comments (Notes to explain your code)

  • Syntax
  • Header style
  • Other styles

Frequently Used SAS System Options


SAS Data Library (How to use/open a SAS data set)

  • Definition
  • Accessing data sets

SAS Data Files

  • Version 9 data set
  • Version 8 data set
  • Version 6 data set
  • Transport format

Data Management

  • Merge a single observation data set with a multi-observation data set

Basic SAS Procedures with Some Useful Options

Processing a Limited Number of Observations

  • OBS and FIRSTOBS - system, data set and proc options
  • WHERE a condition is true
  • Selecting a Random sample
  • The _N_ variable

Output Delivery System (ODS)

  • Traditional output
  • Output data set
  • HTML-formatted file


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