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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Text Mining Tools and Methods

This guide contains resources for researching with text mining

About NVivo

What is NVivo?

NVivo is a software program used for qualitative and mixed-methods research. Specifically, it is used for the analysis of unstructured text, audio, video, and image data, including (but not limited to) interviews, focus groups, surveys, social media, and journal articles. It is produced by QSR International. As of October 2018, it is available for both Windows and Macintosh operating systems; however, the Macintosh version is missing some of the features that the Windows version has. Different editions of NVivo also have different features; see the comparison.

Why use NVivo?

  • Analyze and organize unstructured text, audio, video, or image data.
  • Playback ability for audio and video files, so that interviews can easily be transcribed in NVivo.
  • Ability to capture social media data from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn using the NCapture browser plug-in (NVivo 10 only).
  • Import notes and captures from Evernote - great for field research.
  • Import citations from EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley, Zotero, or other bibliographic management software - great for literature reviews.
  • User interface and text analysis available in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese.

What versions of NVivo are there?

The newest version is NVivo 12 for Windows and Mac. There is a Pro and Plus edition for Windows. The Scholarly Commons hosts Windows version 11 Pro Edition.

The Mac version of NVivo lacks some features of the Windows version. See the comparison.

What file types are associated with NVivo?

  • *.nvp - An NVivo for Windows project file.
  • *.nvpx - An NVivo for Mac project file.

Is there a way to try NVivo for free?

At this time, QSR International offers free 14 day trials of NVivo 12 for Windows and Mac. Check out the free trial here.

Illinois affiliates can also use NVivo in the Scholarly Commons (version 11 Pro Edition). 

NVivo Basics

Getting Sources into NVivo

To import a source, click the "Data" menu and choose the appropriate data option.

Click "Browse" to locate the file in your directory and select the desired file. This will now appear in your "Internals" folder in the Navigation Bar under "Sources." You may find it helpful to create folders under "Internals" to further specify what kind of internals are located there. These could include PDFs, audio files, video files, etc.

You can also get started testing NVivo's features and capabilities using the sample project.

Nodes

Nodes are the containers for codes, themes in your project, memos you write to yourself, and more. They embody concepts and use your codes as evidence of the existence of that concept. You can create nodes as you analyze your data, or you can create them beforehand. This will largely depend on the kind of data you are analyzing as well as the chosen methodology of your project.

To create a new Node, click "Analyze" menu, then "New Node." You will need to name your new Node and provide a description. Your new Node will be stored in the "Nodes" folder automatically, but if you have existing nodes you can choose to nest your new Node under an existing Node. Check the "Aggregate coding from child nodes" box if you wish to nest Nodes.

Codes

Codes can be thought of as quotes you pull from your Sources that embody themes and share relationships with other Sources. You will always "Code at a Node." This simply means your highlighted portion of data (the Code) will be stored in a relevant container (the Node). Your Codes can be stored in multiple Nodes.

To Code, simply highlight a section of relevant text (or a segment of an audio or video file) and Code the Selection at a Node. This can be accomplished by right clicking and selecting at which Node to Code, or by going to the "Analyze" menu and selecting where to code. The former option is generally more cohesive to a steady workflow.

NCapture

NCapture is a browser add-on that takes a snap-shot of the webpage you are currently on and saves it as a file-type specific to NVivo which then essentially works like a PDF. The NCapture button is located in different areas in each browser. You can import each NCapture into NVivo by selecting the "From Other Sources" option from the "External Data" tab in the "Ribbon." You can batch import NCaptures rather than one file at a time, streamlining the process. NCaptures make it easy to grab social media data, such as tweets or Facebook pages.

NVivo Tips and Troubleshooting

Tiny screen? Undock open source and node panes for ease of reading

You can undock the views of open sources, nodes, queries, or other project items by right-clicking on the item's tab and selecting "Undock." This will open the item in its own viewer window. This is particularly useful if you have dual monitors: you can have a source document on one monitor, and have the node view on the other.

Choosing between Word or PDF formats? Word and plain text files are easier to code in NVivo than PDFs.

In general, it is easier to code plain text and Word documents than it is to code PDFs. Automated word detection (such as word frequency and text search queries) also work better on plain text and Word documents than they do on PDFs. If you have a choice between the two formats and your analysis only requires the text, choose plain text.

Headers, footers, and page numbers in Word docs are hidden when viewing the file in NVivo.

If your Word source document has headers, footers, and page numbers, they will be hidden when the document is imported into NVivo. This makes it easier to code long passages of text. This is NOT true of PDFs: headers, footers, and page numbers can not be ignored, and can interfere with coding sentences or paragraphs that carry over a page.

Need line numbers? Save your source as a PDF

If you have a Microsoft Word document with line numbers that you want to import into NVivo, those line numbers will not be visible in NVivo. If you wish to be able to see the line numbers, save the Word document as a PDF, and import that PDF into NVivo. Note that you will be able to see the line numbers when viewing the source, but not when viewing coded content in a node. 

To avoid corrupting your NVivo project files, do not store them on a network drive, external/removable drive, or cloud-synced directory.

Because of how NVivo saves project data, it is generally not recommended to keep your NVivo project file (*.nvp or *.nvpx) on a network drive, on a folder that is synced to the cloud, or on an external hard drive or USB drive. If your connection to a network drive or external drive is severed at any time while your NVivo project is still open, the file will become corrupted.

Switching between a Windows and a Mac computer? 

See this tutorial on converting project files.

Additional NVivo Resources