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Getting to know Nvivo

I get asked a lot about Nvivo, so I've put together some basic information for anyone who is considering using it. My personal stance is that you should definitely learn how to use this software while you are doing your graduate studies and you "have the time" to look into it. Once you are in the workforce, you may not have the time, the support and the discounts available to you as a graduate student. Not only that, but my sense is that there is a growing trend in complexity and interdisciplinary cross-over in research which makes Nvivo the ideal tool to help navigate these new horizons (think Big Data trends, Complexity Theory and Systems Dynamics trends, Fast-paced, Interactive Social Media trends).

The biggest problem for grad students seems to be that they don’t really know what Nvivo can actually DO for them and their data. So I suggest finding out about the different features, then you can see “Ah! That would be super useful for me!”

The latest version of the software is now Nvivo 11. They offer the Nvivo 11 Starter, Nvivo 11 Pro, and Nvivo 11 Plus. I like the Pro myself because it offers way more useful functionalities than the Starter, but this depends on what you want to do with your data.

Nvivo doesn't actually analyze anything FOR you. It allows you to organize the connections and relevant themes you find in your data, organize notes, ideas, explore trends, but you have to set all these up in your project. Once they are set up (the set up is the part that takes the longest time), you can start to QUERY your data, that is, ask Nvivo to pull items, themes, trends that YOU have found in the data and examine them holistically. You can conduct micro- and macro-anslysis at the same time, helping you see the interconnectivity of the items in your research (or any gaps).

You can find some general information about CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software) on Caesura.

We can set up a meet-up any time to fiddle around with the program and see what we need to set up all your data. Using Nvivo (or any other CAQDAS) is primarily about bolstering your methodology. I usually ask people to think about (and preferrably these down as research notes for the project):

- What is the data they are using and why?

- Why have they chosen to present/format the data in that way?

- How do they want to interact with the data (in their coding) and why?

All these tie back to methodology, and thinking about these before you set up the Nvivo project will ensure that there is methodological rigour and follow-though in your coding process. It will also make it easier to understand what you want to do with your data and establish validity (the WHY in all this).

I also recommend watching the HOW TO videos about Nvivo-QSR in their Youtube Channel. You can set the speed for the videos at x1.5 by clicking on the Settings icon in the video and save a little time when you watch them.

There are also A LOT of videos that have been made by researchers, professors and grad students using Nvivo. Some of them are really great for answering a specific question in more detail (because the Nvivo Youtube videos are pretty general), like how do I create Relationships between my Nodes in Nvivo? Or how do I create Case Nodes? You can google search any question you have in the Videos tab.

If you prefer reading, Nvivo also has their whole How To Guide online:

- Downloadable PDF Guide for Windows and for Mac.

- Online Help Directory for Windows and for Mac.

It’s a pretty big learning curve to use Nvivo, so it takes a lot of commitment (sometimes I get stuck with one small technical issue for 1 day or 2 and I can’t progress in my work until it’s solved, which can be very frustrating). But ultimately, using Nvivo is about improving the rigour and reliability of your study, so if it’s used properly it can be a very powerful tool. It allows you to handle large amounts of data in ways that go beyond what is humanly possible, record your coding process (which helps for methodology) and standardize your coding process (which helps for rigour).

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