Lyn’s research hacks: NVivo coding

Lyn LaveryIf you’re using NVivo for data analysis, chances are that you’re spending a fair amount of time coding. While there’s no magic wand to speed this task up for you (coding is just a time consuming process and there’s no avoiding that!), there are a few NVivo shortcuts that might save you some time and effort. Note that the hacks that follow (and the videos) use NVivo 12 for Windows but they will also work in New NVivo (just remember that 'nodes' became 'codes' in the latest version of the software).

Hack #1: Make fast work of text selection

Text selection can be a bit fiddly in NVivo. Some shortcuts to speed this up include double clicking to select a word, triple clicking to select a paragraph, and my personal favourite – Ctrl + click to select a sentence. The Ctrl + click technique is especially helpful when coding survey data, as we often code sentence by sentence.

Hack #2: Maximise your screen space

Coding can be tiring on your eyes, so why not maximise the amount of space you’re using in the NVivo interface? The navigation view and ribbon can both be minimised, plus you can zoom in on your text to make it easier to read (either use the zoom slider in the bottom right corner or if you have a mouse wheel, you can hold down the Ctrl key while scrolling up and down).

Hack #3: Quickly see your children

If you have a number of coding hierarchies and need to see your ‘child’ and ‘grandchild’ levels quickly, you can expand out all nodes, or just a selection, with a right click.

Hack #4: Never underestimate the value of describing

When reporting on your analysis it’s important to move past describing what’s going on in your data – some insights and analysis need to be shown. However, when setting up your nodes at the coding stage, describing is a good thing. As you create each node within your project, take the time to type in a description (you can enter this into the ‘Node Properties’ dialog box). These descriptions will speed coding up later down the track by providing a useful memory aid, and will help you keep track of your coding. If you’ve entered descriptions it’s also easy to export a codebook (a list of your nodes and their descriptions), either for your own purposes or to share with others – use the ‘Export Codebook’ button on the ‘Share’ tab of the ribbon for this.

Hack #5: No idea what your nodes are? Try a word cloud!

Word frequency queries report on the most frequently occurring words in your data. While this isn’t a form of analysis itself (unless you’re conducting a content analysis or something similar), word frequency queries can be extremely useful to help you get familiar with your data. Word clouds are automatically generated from word frequency queries – use these to look for the most frequently occurring words (these will be in a larger font). They may just be ‘nodeworthy’ which might help you get started on developing a coding framework.

If you enjoyed the above tips, you might find our upcoming Research Accelerator useful. 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.