¡Viva NVivo!




Whilst other qualitative data analysis software IS available, one big name in this field you just can’t ignore is NVivo. NVivo claims that it can help you ”organise, explore and share your work – easily and quickly”. I’m in! So where’s the catch?

It’s this: When you’re new to NVivo, it’s quite hard and time-consuming to find out more about it, let alone get training and support. It’s not even that easy get some basic pricing information! But fret not, and do read on: I’ve put together some links and other info right here. Hoorah! Re pricing, I found 12 month student licences for £49 for Mac and £78 for Windows; however, you might be lucky and find that you can get NVivo for free from your university. There’s also the usual 30-day trial which can sign up for via the QSR (the makers of NVivo) website .

What’s it all about then? Well. It sounds like magic! NVivo can deal with a huge amount of data in a variety of formats, be it text-based, audio, video, databases, images, web pages and social media – you name it, NVivo is happy to gobble up all your messy data, crunch it, and spit it out again in an orderly fashion so you can actually do something with it. You just need to tell it how! Yes I know, sorry about that, but no software in the world will do your thinking for you. Once you’ve accepted that, you can still be grateful for its help with managing your data and ideas, querying your data, visualising it, and reporting from it. Then all you need to do is make sense of it all. Simples!

I wish I could show you how it works. Ah! I can! Here’s a three-minute video from the QSR YouTube Channel!

It’s worth watching, if only for the weird way the Australian (?) voiceover says ‘dahr-tahr’ every five seconds or so. Also, as a linguist I’m pleased to see that the clip seamlessly blends into playing in six other languages, starting with French. Chapeau!

I’m currently using NVivo for a project involving interviews, an online survey and focus groups, and I love it! I have some quantitative data too, which I could import both via Excel and SPSS. I wish I’d known about it for earlier projects, but hey, better late than never. I love how you can slice through your data this way and that way – plus how sci-fi is it to be able to say you’re running a matrix query!

Next I’m planning to use NVivo for my PhD literature review. Yes, your literature is data too! Who’d have thought? You can code it, search it query it, visualise it in models – the mind boggles! You can also import references, abstracts, notes and pdfs directly from Endnote – it just gets better and better! (other bibliography software like RefWorks, Zotero and Mendeley and works too but I’m using Endnote, and loving this one too. By now you might be thinking I’m too easily pleased?!)

Here are a few links to things I wish I’d known earlier, to save you finding out the hard way:

  • The QSR website . This is a good starting point, albeit of course their motivation is to flog you the thing. But still. Download a free NVivo 10 guide (current version) here.
  • Going old school for a moment, here’s a top book (yes the type with actual paper pages) which is EXTREMELY useful:

Bazeley, P., & Jackson, K. (2013). Qualitative data analysis with Nvivo (2nd ed). London: Sage.

I locked myself into my study for a week and did nothing but work through it, making notes along the way and practising using my own project and the training ones provided. Comes with an equally helpful website with additional resources and guides – you can download these for free even if you haven’t bought the book. I bought mine for about £20 and I’ve not regretted it.  Also check out Dr Pat Bazeley’s website – the woman’s a legend!

  • NVivo glossary: Columbia University Libraries/Information Services has compiled a very useful table of NVivo terminology, from ‘aggregate’ right through to ‘value’. Definitely worth saving in your Favourites.
  • For what it’s worth, I’ve put together my very own top tips for NVivo. This is by no means a perfect document, more like notes I made while working through the book and applying it to my project. Supplied in Word format on purpose; feel free to download and edit as you see fit.
  • The above-mentioned QSR YouTube channel has loads of other videos explaining different aspects of NVivo. But don’t just stick to that! Searching YouTube for ‘how-to-do-such-and such-with-NVivo’ yields a plethora of other results too.
  • Once you’ve got NVivo installed, don’t overlook the HELP button (looks like a question mark, funnily enough). A wealth of useful information covering everything you’ll ever need, and more.
  • There’s an active NVivo Forum on the QRS website, plus NVivo has a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Ha! Instagram! Just kidding, but the other ones are for real.

Will you be giving NVivo a go?


PS: Despite of what you may think, this post is NOT sponsored by anyone or anything ;-)!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s