What are NVivo basics?

It’s common for clients seeking NVivo training to tell me they want to “learn the basics” or for them to state they “already know the basics”. Often it becomes clear that their definition of “basics” may be different than our definition and what QuotesWork includes in Learn NVivo basics.  

After years of using NVivo in research and evaluation projects, in a team or on my own, I believe a solid understanding of the following 4 key areas is essential knowledge for each NVivo user.

  1. Organize your NVivo project.
    One of NVivo’s strengths is the multitude of ways to keep your qualitative data and analysis organized. By using NVivo’s folders, you can import your data systematically and strategically store it in groups that make sense for your project. For example, you can store your literature and interviews separately, but retain them for cross-referencing in the same project. And, by using NVivo’s classification system, you can add important information about the data sources to aid your analysis as you begin to contrast and compare your findings. For instance, you can include bibliographic information for each article in your literature folder. Or, you can add demographic information collected for each of your interviewees or survey participants. Knowing how to set up a well-organized and efficient NVivo project is a foundational NVivo basic.

  2. Coding.
    Using NVivo for coding qualitative data is the quintessential characteristic of the software. NVivo is equally flexible whether you are planning an inductive (“bottom up”) or deductive (“top down”) approach to coding. Becoming adept at using additional coding tools such as coding stripes, highlighting, colour coding, and NVivo’s codebook allows you to effectively explore and evolve your coding structure. Although coding is a given NVivo basic, I find that many of my clients benefit by learning about these tools to maximize their efficiency in coding tasks.

  3. Notes.
    Two NVivo functions that are highly underutilized are NVivo’s memo system and (in NVivo for Windows) the See-Also Links. Regular use of NVivo’s memos promotes tracking of thoughts, processes and analysis progress. You create and store memos inside the project and organize them in folders. Memos can be used to track team decisions and processes, or for recording analysis thoughts and reflection, or for summarizing key pieces of literature and theme codes. By requiring team members to include their memos inside NVivo, their work continues to be available even if they leave the team. Memos can include direct quotations from your data using See-Also links. Best of all, memos can be exported as Word documents, to form the basis of written reports. If you have ever used NVivo for coding but then wondered, “Now how do I report on it?”, the answer is, learn to use NVivo’s notes.

  4. Queries.
    Queries are the way we ask questions of our data in NVivo. Queries can be used to further our analysis, to contrast and compare between groups, and to demonstrate the rigour of our analysis processes. We can use queries to explore the data before we have any coding, and to systematically examine the consistency of our coding as we progress through analysis. Queries are set up using criteria that tell NVivo where to search and what to search. We can save queries to rerun them when things have changed in our project. And we can save our results and export them as visualizations (like charts, word clouds or tables) to include in reports. Knowing how to design and interpret queries will allow you to harness the power of NVivo to analyze your data and confidently represent your findings accurately.

So there you have it. My definition of the NVivo basics include skills that cover 4 areas: creating an efficient NVivo project structure, using the array of coding tools to sharpen your analysis, learning how to ask questions of your data using queries – and logging your progress in memos to export for report writing based on your well-documented process and findings.

How does our definition of the basics compare to what you know about NVivo? If you want to learn more about how to make NVivo work for you – including the basics – check out our course options


QuotesWork’s Learn NVivo course is a series of 4 lessons that takes the NVivo user through the main NVivo features you need to know to set up an NVivo project.

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