Starting a project

Your first task is to create a new NVivo project.

  1. Open NVivo 11 from the Start menu, or a a desktop shortcut if one was installed.
  2. Select the Blank Project tile and enter the file name, description, and location on your computer for the file.

Remember to make regular backups of the project by clicking on the File tab and selecting Copy Project.. You may wish to store these in a separate drive or in cloud storage for safety.

QSR has instructions for creating a new project in NVivo 11 for Windows and for Mac.

Exploring a project: navigation tips

The first time you open an NVivo project, you may find it difficult to navigate. This is because NVivo projects are different to other software we employ on a daily basis.

You can access an existing project to explore the difference components and experiment before setting up your own by selecting the Sample Project tile from the start page of NVivo 11. If you wish to keep this sample project to continue exploration and experimentation simply save it in a convenient location on your computer.

The first PDF document below explains the main features of the NVivo 11 Pro project and menus, and also includes some navigation tips. The second PDF gives the same information for NVivo 10 in case you are using an older versiion of the software.

NVivo key terminology

NVivo uses common words and terms in specific ways to describe and label different components and actions in the software. Take a look at the document below to check what we mean by sources, nodes, coding, classifications and more.

Where do I start? Adding source materials

After creating a project, the next step is to add the source materials that you will analyse. Sources are the documents and multimedia that you will use in your research. Sources may include the documents for your literature review as well as data you have gathered. Types of sources can include interview transcripts, questionnaire data, photos, audio and video recordings,and notes/memos that you create in NVivo. Usually, you will import documents into your NVivo project (e.g. transcripts of interviews that you have stored as Word documents), but you can also create new documents in NVivo such as memos.
NVivo distinguishes between two types of sources:

  • Internals: sources that you import into NVivo (e.g. Word documents, audio, video, PDFs, etc). The most flexible way to import sources is to use the Data tab to select the source type, then choose the relevant file(s).
  • Externals: for non-digital sources, unsupported file formats or very large digital source files (e.g. an ebook), NVivo gives you the option to create a 'proxy' document that represents the source. For example, a hard copy book can not be imported as an Internal. An Extrenal 'proxy' would be a document that represents the book; you might create a document with a summary of the main information/evidence. To make one: click on the Create tab, then External. The option File link will allow you to link your External (that is, the document that contains the summary of the source) to a digital source that you may not want to or can not import.

The QSR video below show you a different method of importing documents using the NVivo 10 platform; the same steps can be used in NVivo 11 Pro, although the interface looks slightly different. To import other sources (e.g. PDFs), simply select the type of source you'd like to import (e.g. PDF, dataset for Excel file, audio, video).

Memos and See Also links

Memos are documents that you create with NVivo; they can be used to take notes of your reading materials and record your thoughts (e.g. methodological choices or your ideas as you code your sources).

Memos can also be linked to source documents. For example, you may want to create a memo 'Andrew's field notes' that is linked to Andrew's interview transcript. This memo will contain your comments about the interview, observations (e.g. non-verbal language) and first impressions.

See Also Links are used to create connections to existing or new items. For example, a See Also Link can connect a specific keyword or expression found in one interview to another interview. See Also Links are particularly helpful in the first stages of data analysis, when you start to notice relationships between participants or emerging themes.

The PDF below gives more information, and instructions on how to create and manage See Also Links and Memos.