NVivo – Insights from a Novice User

Are you thinking about using NVivo software to help analyse your research data? I attended a NVivo 11 Core Skills workshop at the end of last year and I thought it would be useful to share some of my insights from this workshop.


  1. NVivo is an useful software tool for analysing qualitative data but it is not a “magic wand”. You still need to transcribe your interviews and interpret the results.
  2. NVivo’s workspace is similar to Outlook so if you have used this software you will find it easy to navigate around the three main views.
  3. NVivo can be used for literature reviews, coding data and identifying themes, concepts or ideas.
  4. NVivo can code all sorts of data including: Word documents, PDFs, emails, Excel spread sheets, Access databases, audio, video, images, web pages and social media data.
  5. NVivo allows you to import bibliographic information and download directly from surveys collected using SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics.
  6. You should put all your data into one project so that it is kept all together and easier to manage.
  7. AUT has the NViv0 11 PRO version and only one person can work on a project at any one time so you will need to carefully manage usage times unless you have ‘NVivo for teams’.  Don’t work on a Cloud version. Download and work on the file, and then save it to the Cloud.
  8. Coding can be in the form of a word, phrase, sentence or paragraph and there are direct links back to the original source making it easy to view and interpret the coded text.
  9. Nodes are used to organise your data and can represent your themes or categories. You can have as many nodes as you want and they can be organised hierarchically. So you can have ‘parent’ nodes at the top and ‘child’ nodes below to show their connection. (Tip: always write a description for your node especially if there is more than one researcher coding so that you get consistency in the coding. It is also useful if you return to your data at a later stage.)
  10. It is useful to have ‘not sure’ and/or ‘other’ nodes if it is not clear how a piece of text should be coded. You can rename the node later when your themes are clearer.
  11. You can use deductive coding or inductive coding depending on your methodology; or a combination of both (Deductive coding methods identify themes before coding whereas inductive coding methods e.g. grounded theory, identify themes as you go.)
  12. Life will be much easier for you if you keep transcribing styles similar and make sure the word documents are accurate before importing them into NVivo.
  13. With NVivo you can ask questions or ‘query‘ your data and/or coding. There are 7 types of queries available: Word Frequency, Text Search, Coding, Matrix Coding, Compound, Coding Comparison and Group.  In this introductory course we looked at ‘word frequency’ and ‘text search’. Word frequency finds the most frequently occurring words in your sources and can be used to identify themes when you first enter your data or at the end of your coding. Text search finds all instances of words, phrases or synonyms throughout your sources. The fun part is that you can view your queries as word clouds, tree maps or cluster analysis and export them for presentations.
  14. Linking is also possible in NVivo using Annotations, Memos, ‘See Also Links’ and Hyperlinks. Annotations are likened to a post-it note or note in a margin and can be linked to the original source. Memos are useful for all sorts of reasons: to leave a note for a co-researcher, ideas for further investigation or for linking a comment back to a particular source (Tip: Include an ‘Admin’ memo, and ‘Research Journal’ memo).  ‘See Also Links’ can remind you of connections between project items.

Note: you can find more information from the NVivo software developers at QSR International.


Lavery, L. and Butler, R. 2016. NVivo Core Skills Training Handout. Academic Consulting. Auckland. 45 p.


About Robyn Kannemeyer

Robyn Kannemeyer was the Researcher Development Coordinator at AUT from October 2016 to the beginning of March 2017. She has an MSc in biosecurity and conservation and is taking up a role at Landcare Research as an Environmental Social Scientist. She is passionate about conserving New Zealand’s unique biodiversity and recently returned from travelling through South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania where she climbed Mt Kilimanjaro.

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