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NVivo for Qualitative Research

NVivo Lib Guide is a go-to resource for researchers analyzing qualitative data using NVivo software.

Getting started with NVivo

Getting Started (click each link for more information)

  • Make a mind map for your preliminary ideas. Show the relationships or patterns you expect to find in your data based on prior experience or preliminary reading.

  • Import your interviews, field notes, focus groups —organize these files into folders for easy access.

  • Set up an initial code structure based on your early reading and ideas—you could run a Word Frequency query over your data to tease out the common themes for creating your code structure.

  • Set up cases for the people, places or other cases in your project.

  • Explore your material and code themes as they emerge—create memos and describe your discoveries and interpretations.

  • To protect your work, get in the habit of making regular back-ups.


Cases are the units of analysis in a project. Often they are people, but they can be organizations, locations, or any other entity that you are researching. Case classifications let you store demographic information about the 'units of analysis' in your project.

Example : Create cases for your interview participants, assign these cases to a classification called Person, and record values for Age, Gender, Level of Education and Occupation.


Create cases automatically

NVivo provides a number of quick ways to create cases—for example, you can:

  • Create cases from selected files—this is most useful when the entire file represents a single case (unit of analysis). When you create cases from your files the entire content of the file is coded.

  • Create cases based on the speaker names in a document.

  • Import a spreadsheet (called a 'classification sheet' in NVivo) containing respondent names and demographic variables.

  • Import a survey or social media dataset and automatically create and classify cases based on the content.

Use demographic data in queries and visualizations

Once you set up the demographic data for your research participants, you can use queries and visualizations to make comparisons. For example, you could use a matrix coding query to compare attitudes about environment and community based on gender—this matrix displays the number of coding references at each intersection and helps you to answer questions like How often did women mention community? (you can double-click in a cell to see the coded content).

If you would rather ask the question How many women talked about community? you can change the count that is displayed in the matrix—right-click and select Cell Content, then click Cases Coded, and then click the classification Person.

  • Make a case for each participant.

  • Classify the case as a person—you could also have classifications for different types of people, like students or teachers.

  • Assign the attributes—for example, age group and gender.

  • Code participants' comments to their cases.


In NVivo, 'files' is the collective term for your research materials (including primary materials such as documents, videos or survey results, and memos)

When you import or create a file, you can analyze content in the following ways (click on each link for more information:

  • Code to gather content by theme or topic>

  • Annotate to make notes about content

  • Create 'see-also' links to draw comparisons or connections between files

  • Link to memos to store insights, interpretations or observations about the content

Types of files 

(watch this video for an overview NVivo in Action - YouTube)




Interview transcripts

Field notes


Web pages or social media data captured with NCapture

Field notes and observations OneNote and Evernote

Journal articles and other files from Citavi, Mendeley, EndNote, Zotero and RefWorks Import bibliographies


Online survey results

Social media data captured with NCapture

Audio and video files

Recorded interviews or focus group discussions

Observational videos

YouTube videos


Photos and drawings


Physical book

8mm film

Journal references


Project journal

Notes that record why you created particular codes.