What is coding? Types of nodes

Coding is a systematic way of condensing data sets into smaller units which can be analysed through the creation of categories and concepts derived from the data. Coding is the process of identifying patterns and themes in your sources and organising them into coding containers, called nodes. Nodes can contain as many references (as much evidence) as you consider relevant. They group information from different sources according to topics, themes, concepts, theories, empirical evidence, and ideas,...

You can use coding and nodes for different purposes in your research, for example to: analyse your literature review, analyse what your participants said, generate a general theory, and more.

You will create two types of nodes, which serve two different purposes:

  • Cases (referred to as case nodes in NVivo 10): will store all that has been said by each participant (e.g. Barbara's case node will include Barbara's interview and any other participation or contribution she has made). Case nodes are used to store information about your participants that can be utilised to compare them (see the section of this guide on Classifications and Attributes). Cases can also be used for categories of participants when individuals are not identified, e.g. teachers, students, and parents; or patients and doctors etc.
  • Theme nodes: any node that is not used to represent people/participants (i.e. evidence, theories, concepts, themes,...)

This QSR video tutorial will help  you understand nodes and cases further.

The PDF document below explains some approaches to the coding process using NVivo. In general, you can take an inductive approach (categories are generated after examining the collected data) or a deductive approach (categories are developed before data is collected, based on previous research). Many research projects combine both approaches. The Library has a number of resources on qualitative data analysis that can assist you with the coding process.

How do I code?

Coding in NVivo is fairly simple; the real difficulty is the process behind coding sources (i.e. what to code, how many categories are needed,...).

There are two approaches to creating nodes:

  • Create nodes before you start coding: click on the Create tab and select the type of node you want, give your new node a name and description and you are ready to use it!
  • Create nodes as you code: in this case, you will select content within the source you are analysing (e.g. an interview), right-click, select Code Selection, then Code Selection At New Node, then enter the desired details.

To code content into an existing node, you can either use the right-click method described in step 2 above, or the Quick Coding Toolbar that is located at the bottom of your NVivo project when you open a source with the Analyze tab open.

The Explore NVivo 11 Pro for Windows  QSR video tutorial (also on the first page of this guide) demonstrates now to create nodes, and how to code.


Sometimes you may need to uncode data from a node. You may have accidentally coded data using the wrong node, or may decide, on reflection, that the coding was not correct.

To uncode data:

1. Right-click coded selection of text in the opened Source or Node

2. Select Uncode Selection

3. Uncode Selection at Existing nodes (select the node or nodes you'd like to uncode)

Managing nodes

You can rename, move and merge nodes. Coding which has already been done with not be lost. You can also create hierarchies using parent and child nodes. The PDF document below explains these processes.

Exploring a node

Once you have done some coding, you can start exploring your nodes. Each node will include the references you coded, and the name of the source that was coded.

To see all the references you have coded into a node:

  1. Select Nodes from the left hand navigation pane, open the Nodes folder by clicking on it. If you have subfolders, you will need to click the arrow next to the Nodes folder to be able to see them.
  2. Double click on the desired node to open it in Display view.

The PDF below explains the different elements you will see when you open a node.