Developing a coding framework with NVivo maps


Lyn Lavery I’ve been busy coding survey data in NVivo recently – if you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed me tweeting some #nvivotips as I code. The data relates to students’ experience in an online learning environment. When I started developing the coding framework for it, I started out with what Pat Bazeley refers to the ‘scribble and doodle’ method – I like this approach when it’s a small dataset that I’m working with. If you haven’t come across the technique – it’s nothing fancy – it’s literally making notes and scribbles on a hard copy of the data. I’ve included a photo, just to prove it’s not complicated (in case you think your vision has gone blurry, the actual data is blanked out for confidentiality).

From there I started to list out what I thought my nodes might be. My first iterations all ended up in the bin – I kept needing to redo the connections between the ideas. Thankfully I then remembered the new mind mapping function in NVivo 11 – perfect for mapping out my nodes and enabling me to move my ideas around as my thinking changed. Before I knew it, I had my nodes sorted and I probably saved a few trees in the process given the way I was screwing up pieces of paper when I started!

The NVivo help files define mind maps as a “brainstorming tool that starts with a central topic”. So, if you’re developing a coding framework, your central topic might be your research question or main topic of interest with your subtopics or possible themes/nodes branching out from there. Below is the mind map I generated for the online learning data I was working with.

NVivo mind maps allow you to go one better than just brainstorming. On the ribbon you’ll find a handy ‘Create as Nodes’ button – this takes the ideas in your mind map and creates your nodes automatically from them.

You’ll still need to add descriptions for each of your nodes (always an important part of the coding process), but at least the mind map function has helped you along the way with your coding framework. You can learn more about the mind maps feature of NVivo, in this short video.

If you’re a visual person like I am, you might be interested in some of the other visualisation tools NVivo has to offer. We run our Painting the Picture in NVivo online course which covers a number of the new visualisation tools in NVivo 11, throughout the year. Or, if you’re looking for further tips for developing a coding framework, check out our Analysing Qualitative Data course.