Coding Qualitative Data Using NVivo

Qualitas Research

Coding Qualitative Data

Coding is the systematic organization and analysis of qualitative data, allowing researchers to identify patterns, themes, and relationships within their data. While traditional methods of manual coding have long been practiced, the advent of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) has revolutionized the landscape, offering researchers powerful tools to streamline and enhance their analysis.

In my qualitative research I often use NVivo for coding and analyzing qualitative data. In my opinion, NVivo offers a methodical and structured framework for analysis to ensure that qualitative data analysis is conducted with thoroughness and rigor.

Understanding NVivo: A Brief Overview

NVivo is a robust CAQDAS developed by QSR International, designed to facilitate the management, organization, and analysis of qualitative data. Whether you’re conducting interviews, focus groups, surveys, or analyzing textual documents, NVivo offers a suite of features tailored to meet the diverse needs of qualitative researchers. From data importation and organization to advanced coding and visualization capabilities, NVivo provides a comprehensive toolkit to support every stage of the research process.

Getting Started: Importing and Organizing Your Data

The journey of coding qualitative data using NVivo begins with importing your data into the software. NVivo supports various file formats, including text documents, PDFs, audio files, videos, and spreadsheets, ensuring flexibility in handling diverse data sources. Once imported, NVivo enables researchers to organize their data using a hierarchical structure, creating folders, cases, and nodes to categorize and manage their information effectively. This initial stage lays the foundation for subsequent analysis, ensuring that data is structured and accessible for coding and interpretation.

Coding: Unraveling Insights Through Systematic Analysis

At the heart of NVivo lies its powerful coding capabilities, allowing researchers to dissect and analyze their data with precision and rigor. NVivo offers two primary methods of coding: manual coding and automated coding. Manual coding involves the manual assignment of codes to segments of data, enabling researchers to categorize and annotate their data based on emerging themes and concepts. In contrast, automated coding leverages machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and keywords within the data, offering a rapid but less nuanced approach to coding.

The image below is a screenshot of the initial stages of coding qualitaitve data for one of my research projects about pharmacists’ experiences of working with people with mental health problems.

Research Services, NVivo coding

Refining and Analyzing: Exploring Themes and Relationships

Once coded, NVivo empowers researchers to explore, refine, and analyze their data in depth. Through features such as coding stripes, matrix coding queries, and word frequency queries, researchers can identify patterns, connections, and discrepancies within their data, facilitating the generation of insights and hypotheses. Additionally, NVivo offers a range of visualization tools, including charts, diagrams, and word clouds, enabling researchers to communicate their findings visually and intuitively.


From data importation and organization to advanced coding and analysis, NVivo offers a comprehensive suite of features tailored to meet the diverse needs of qualitative researchers. By harnessing the power of NVivo, researchers can delve deeper into their data, unraveling insights and generating knowledge that informs theory, policy, and practice across disciplines.

Kim Morral

Freelance Social Researcher