One of the biggest mistakes some of my undergraduate students make is to confuse the role of Nvivo in the qualitative data analysis process. Let me be clear, NVIVO is a data management tool NOT a method of analysis. Nvivo is great for organising data and helping you to make sense of it during the process of analysis.
This blog is not about how to use Nvivo, this is something that I may do in the future, it is about what are the benefits of using Nvivo for the research you are conducting.
NVIVO is not suitable for every research project, in my opinion NVIVO is only really useful if you have large data sets. For example 10 interviews that are 5-8 mins long don’t really need coding in Nvivo, you can do that by hand using a printout of your transcribed data and a highlighter pen, this is a lot more efficient and effective with a lower learning curve. However if you have lets say 10-15 interviews that are an hour long then you do need a tool like NVIVO, this will be a godsend in helping to organise and manage a large dataset with a clear coding structure which can help with the creation of themes and the searching of data.
King (2004, p. 263) endorses Nvivo as a method of data management and argues that software such as NVivo is invaluable in helping the researcher index segments of text to particular themes, to link research notes to coding, to carry out complex search and retrieve operations, and to aid the researcher in examining possible relationships between the themes. Having used Nvivo within my research I found it particularly useful with the data analysis approach of template analysis, however it is an extremely flexible tool and can be used across multiple approaches.
So what are the advantages of Nvivo:
Collect and archive almost any data type and connect to your transcribed data
People mainly think of Nvivo as a tool for transcribed data. Over the years as QSR has worked on the software it has become a home for all types of collected research data. The ability to collect multimedia data from multiple devices and then link it to your transcribed data is essential in accessing the source files when required through Nvivo
Search large data sets
Looking for a specific quote within your theme or would you like to create a wordtree with the data you have? Nvivo allows you to search large data sets and then organize the results in a variety of ways; word trees, mind maps etc. Spencer et al. (2003, p. 209) supports this type of choice and mentions that qualitative research software is invaluable for content analysis because of the capacity it brings in helping to retrieve word strings in large data sets.
Create codes to identify patterns
The Nvivo software is normally primarily employed in the organisation of the data into themes, to make the retrieval of such data quicker and more efficient. Through the analysis of multiple codes it is easy to identify themes across your data sets. This can only really be done if the data is organised and sorted properly. Again here Spencer et al. (2003, p. 209) finishes by adding that the use of hyperlinks to find connections and relations would be very difficult and time-consuming if done manually. Based on the advantages of time and efficiency and seeing links across large data sets, NVivo was a deemed a suitable tool.
Nvivo and Social Media
A relatively new phenomenon, Nvivo now allows the import of Tweets, Facebook posts and youtube comments to be imported and coded as part of your data. As research processes change this could become an essential component within a few years. Dynamic data as part of research is relatively new but becoming more commonplace.
These are just a few of the advantages of Nvivo. It is a huge piece of software with a very steep learning curve. Once you get past this point the process is a lot simpler.
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Beddall-Hill, N., Jabbar, A., & Shehri, S. (2011). Social Mobile Devices as Tools for Qualitative Research in Education: iPhones and iPads in Ethnography, Interviewing, and Design-Based Research. Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology, 7(1), 67–89. Retrieved from http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/10507/
King, N. (2004). Using templates in the thematic analysis of texts. In C. Cassell & G. Symon (Eds.), Essential guide to qualitative methods in organizational research (pp. 256–270). London: Sage Publications.
Spencer, L., Ritchie, J., & O’Connor, W. (2003). Analysis: practices, principles and processes. In J. Ritchie & J. Lewis (Eds.), Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers (pp. 199–218). London: Sage.