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 (some of the data has been blurred for to maintain confidentiality).

From there I started to list out what I thought my codes 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 mind mapping function in NVivo – perfect for mapping out my codes and enabling me to move my ideas around as my thinking changed. Before I knew it, I had my codes 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 codes 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 codes’ button – this takes the ideas in your mind map and creates your codes automatically from them.

You’ll still need to add descriptions for each of your codes (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.

If you’re a visual person like I am, you might be interested in some of the other visualization tools NVivo has to offer. Consider registering for our upcoming Research Accelerator. This is a time-efficient and cost-effective way for you to access research training – if you can't attend the event live, you'll receive on-demand access so that you can watch the sessions at your convenience.