NVivo User Guide

About NVivo



NVivo Text Analysis is a useful tool for completing qualitative analysis. Qualitative data differs from quantitative data because qualitative data cannot be reduced or represented by numerical values.

This user guide has been designed around the "Navigation View" tool, which you can find in the lower left hand corner of the NVivo page.  The benefit of the Navigation View is that almost all of the functions can be easily found via navigating through it.



Why Use NVivo


Social researchers use qualitative data to evaluate, interpret, and explain social phenomena. NVivo can aid social researchers in analyzing data such as interviews, surveys, field notes, web pages, audio visual material and journal articles. NVivo Analysis does not favor a particular methodology—it’s designed to facilitate many methods.

Remember that NVivo can help you to manage, explore and find patterns in your data but it cannot replace your analytical expertise.  It should be considered a useful tool, helpful for:

  1. Discovering and Analyzing Constellations of Themes
  2. Demographic Research

NVivo Capabilities


  1. NVivo can import and provide appropriate tools for analyzing Word, PDF, Audio, Video, and Surveys.
  2. NVivo can download social media data.  In NVivo 10 there is a capturing tool that will allow you to mine data from sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
  3. NVivo can also produce reports from the organizationed and analyzed data.

Planning an NVivo Project:


Beginning an NVivo project, it may seem overwhelming.  A useful way to begin an effective NVivo project would be to ask yourselves the following questions.

  1. What are the cases in my project? People? Organizations?
  2. If you have more than one type, start thinking about the most discrete unit.
  3. How should I prepare my files?
  4. What are my attributes and values?  List out every one.
  5. What are the themes of my project?
  6. What are the quieries that will answer my research questions?
  7. What if I can't answer my research questions?
  8. See steps 1-5
  9. If all else fails, create a set for it.

NVivo Orientation



The lower left hand menu is simply a navigation tool, clicking on any of the options will not change the main screen, but rather it will help to narrow your search and navigate you to the tools you are looking for. This is the recommended way to find and use the tools of NVivo since all the tools are logically ordered in this view.




When you choose an option from the lower portion of the Navigation View, folders that live within that option will appear in the upper portion of the Navigation View.


For instance, in the above photo, the option "Sources" was selected from the lower portion of the Navigation View, which brought up all the folders that are filed as sources.


Selecting any of the folders from the upper portion of the Navigation View will bring up its contents in the List View.

List View


The List View will show all the items located in each folder. By selecting an item from the List View, the item will show up in the Detail View.



Detail View


Once in the Detail View, items may be viewed individually and available to be coded into nodes.

Viewing Preferences


According to your own personal viewing preferences, you may switch the split between the List View and the Detail View to be horizontal or vertical.  In order to do this select "View" from the top ribbon, select "Detail View", and then "Right" or "Bottom".



Bottom Detail View



Right Detail View


You may also find it useful to move the boundaries (outlined above in red) between the List View and the Detail View to allow you to see more or less of an item, clicking on the divider and dragging the divider to the desired position.


Coding Stripes

Coding stripes serve as visual aids to your NVivo project, as well as helpful coding/uncoding options. They highlight the nodes that you have already coded (either by default color or the color you set to the node).


By right-clicking on the stripe you can uncode a piece of data, open a node, or highlight the piece of data which was coded.



In order to view the coding stripes for only one source at a time:

  • Select the "View" tab from the top ribbon -> Select "Coding Stripes" -> From the drop-down menu select "Nodes Most Coded" or "Nodes Recently Coded".



In order to view the coding stripes permanently for every source:

  • Select "File" -> From the drop-down menu select "Options" -> Select "Display" from the tabs on the top ribbon -> Select either "Nodes Most Coded" or "Nodes Recently Coded" under "Coding Stripes -> Quit and restart NVivo.


Getting Started

Project Preparation


Use a large hard-drive to save your project on, smaller drives run a risk of corrupting your project.

It is advisable to keep one Master Copy of the project, and often save additional back-up copies of the Master project, labeled with the date they were saved.

Creating Back-Up Copies


Try to create these dated back-up files consistently.  To save a back-up of your project (which is highly recommended):

  • File -> Manage -> Copy Project

Distinguish each back-up copy, preferably with the date it was saved, so you know when you last backed-up your project.  When you create and save a back-up copy, this will not open your copy in NVivo, it will simply copy the Master Project and drop it off in the location of your choice (desktop, folder, zip drive, external drive, etc).

Event Logs


When a new NVivo project is opened for the first time you will be prompted to create "event logs" that correspond to your project.  Event logs will track the progress of your project and can be useful if, for instance, a portion of your project is accidentally deleted.  The event logs can be used to discover when the portion was deleted and then you can go back to your dated back-up files and re-integrate it.

Team Projects

There are three ways in which to work as a team in NVivo:

  1. Server Project
  2. Standalone Project
  3. Post-Coding Merged Project


Server Project:

This option involves installing a separate application, the NVivo Server, on your network's server. When you work on a Server Project the project will be saved on the NVivo Server and multiple users will be able to access it at once.

In a Server Project, users will be distinguished via their windows user name. The project owners will easily be able to add and manage the level of access the other team members have to the project. In this set-up the NVivo software will be able to manage, to a certain extent, possible editing conflicts between users, for instance once a change is made to any item, the project will refresh automatically to reflect that change to all other users.


Standalone Projects:

It is possible to work as a team on non-NVivo Server projects as well. Multiple users can work under different user identities on the same NVivo file, however they will not be able to work on the file at the same time. Any edits one user makes will be made under their ID.

Another option for working together on Standalone projects is to have one Master Copy and give a copy to each user to work on, then periodically merging each user's project with the Master Copy.  The data will not be duplicated, but the coding will be combined, but you will still be able to see who coded what.


Post-Coding Merged Project:

If you create projects that consist of identical data, and then code them separately you can merge them together. When you merge identical projects together, the data will not be duplicated, but the coding will be combined and you will be able to see how similar or different the coding of the data was, as well as being able to see who coded what.



*Be careful of editing if you are working on a group project. If you edit a partner’s work it will only change for your version of the project and your partner’s will remain the same. This will lead to issues/nodes that cannot be reconciled because they won’t be recognized as the same.

*Make sure all team members are working with the same version of the NVivo Software because a project saved in a newer version of NVivo (10) will not open in an older version of NVivo (9).


Importing Files


In order to import files choose Sources from the Navigation Bar -> Click on Internals -> Right-click on the blank space of the List View -> Choose import files. This process is the same for all types of files.



Importing Projects


You can import an entire project or you can have the option to only import the coding structure of another project.  This will allow you to use another project's nodes and node structures as a skeleton.