NVivo and the literature review

In my last post, I wrote about some of the benefits I have encountered using NVivo for a literature review. Over the course of this year, I am going to be doing a series of posts that will go through the process of using NVivo for a literature review. The posts will be broken down into different sections:

  1. Sources in your literature review: What types of files you can introduce, how to introduce them, the different ways of sorting them into folders, using memo’s and purpose of memo’s in NVivo. This includes items like web content, journal articles and your own notes.
  1. Importing your endnote library into NVivo, as well as instructions on how to do this. A lot of people are excited by this new feature that NVivo has so I think it deserves a post all on its own!
  1. Different ways of coding your literature review in NVivo: This is important because coding for a literature review is vastly different to coding and analysing you data and structure and purpose. The reason you are coding is different, and so are the nodes you are creating. You will also use those nodes differently when it comes times to writing.
  1. Queries. This is largely dependent on your coding. I will go through some of the queries and features of NVivo that are particularly useful for the literature review, along with how to use them. It is important to understand that there is a big link between some of features such as queries and coding. In fact, many of these features are largely dependent on the coding.

Research design and analysis

I will also be writing posts about research design and qualitative analysis. This seems to be something a lot of students get confused or lack confidence in, so I want to provide some thoughts on those areas as well. Topics include:

  1. Designing qualitative research. This post will largely deal with talking about the idea that there are different methods and methodologies when it comes to qualitative research. The post will describe some of the differences between them, and also give tips on helping identify which method you might be using. This is because I have often found students “doing” qualitative research often don’t know which method they are using themselves!
  1. Qualitative analysis. It seems that often, students are not taught about the different ways of analysing qualitative data. It is often dependent on the method used (but some students are not sure of that) and often, people lack confidence or knowledge when it comes to analysis stage of their research. In this post, I will talk about some of the different ways to approach analysis of qualitative data.

So that just gives an idea of what some of the upcoming content is for the start of this year. If there is anything else you would like to see, or something you would like to see more of, please let me know!

18 thoughts on “NVivo, literature review, research design and analysis

  1. Hello! I am starting my literature review and am also planning on using NVivo, so I’m really looking forward to your future posts! I would say at this point I am most interested in different way of coding the literature. I’m also interested in how or in what ways you’ve used the visual elements (colors/charts, etc.) to represent information from your lit review. Thanks!


  2. These posts sound awesome Anuja – getting your lit sources organized and coded so that you can run useful queries is a great area to explore. And taking a practical look at different methods and their application is also interesting stuff. I’m looking forward to all of it!


  3. Hi Anuja,
    I’ve just started my lit review in Nvivo but stumbled across what I feel are some major limitations.

    When importing from Endnote as Author-Year, Nvivo can’t identify individual authors of a multi-authored paper (for example, to make as case nodes). This means manually coding all authors. This was confirmed by QSR Support. I hope Nvivo will fix this in future releases.

    Secondly, I can’t see how display the Journal article title in the main view- any suggestions most welcome (changing list view offers limited options that don’t include attributes).

    Thirdly, how to quickly search the ‘attributes’? As I can’t see my document titles or journal title, I’d like to search the attributes and say,pull up every article published in Journal X.



    1. Hi Sarina,

      I always find it most useful to import from Endnote based on title rather than author year for the very reason you stated. That way, NVivo automatically creates the classifications for the authors. It also fixes the second issue you raised of being able to see the journal title of in the main view.

      In regards to your third point, you can search attributes using the queries (either the coding or matrix ones depending on what you would like to do). For detailed info on how to do that, I suggest having a look at the QSR online help. They have really detailed information on how to do it 🙂



  4. Great series! I’m looking forward to reading the next post.
    I have a question: does anyone of you use Nvivo for case-law analysis?



  5. Hi Anuja,
    I have started using NVIVO 10 and was trying to import references from Mendeley ( was previously using for referencing and literature review). I, first exported the references from Mendeley in RIS format then used External data from other sources in NVIVO to import, the Content imported from reference library but it is rated as Unsupported Bibliographical Data. Can you please guide me how can i import references along with Pdfs from Mendeley to NVIVO 10.


    1. Hi,
      It is not compatible with Mendeley at this stage, though if you contact QSR support they will have more information on this. All technical questions are best directed to QSR support, as they are the experts in this area!


  6. I am interested in understanding whether NVivo might be the right software to use to develop a map of common elements of regulations. I have a number of regulations from different juridictions addressing the same core issue but with subtle differences. Would NVivo give me the associations across such a data set (about 400 pages at 8 font)?


    1. Hi Dave. Your comment was I while ago so I assume you found your answer, but in case you didn’t, it really depends on the type of data that you have. Is it text based or numerically based?


      1. Still unresolved but now working up some ranking rules that could be uptaken into some thing like NVivo


  7. I just discovered your blog. thank you for sharing your insights.
    I would like to link different tools.
    Endnote as a metadata enrichment
    Nvivo as a statistical feature to predict the direction of my lit review
    Protegé for the creation of both thesaurus and ontology
    Vobench for creation of taxonomiy.
    Do you have some experience with/recomandations/extra links to PDF-blogs- to gain further insight in this materia?
    Thank you,
    Paul Maesschalck


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