So I’ve done my coding in NVivo ... Now what?

Lyn Lavery A common problem researchers face when they’ve completed their initial coding is knowing what to do next. They know they eventually need to start writing, but they’re not sure how to get there from their coded nodes. If this applies to you, read on for some tips on moving forward at this stage of the analysis process – some of these are NVivo specific but others require a bit of old-fashioned brain work! Note that this blog post refers to 'nodes' in NVivo – if you're using a more recent version of the software, these have been renamed 'codes'.

Review your coding

Once you’ve “finished” coding in NVivo, it pays to review your coding and node framework. The first thing we usually do is read through the content of each node to check if it’s correct. In some cases, we might adjust the level of coding (is there too much or too little material coded for example). Alternatively, some of the data may have been coded incorrectly to the wrong node, and it pays to find this out sooner rather than later so that it can be corrected.

At this stage you may also want to check whether any categories can be combined to create broader themes. Sometimes the opposite applies and you need to “code on” from a larger node to create more specific categories. Viewing your standalone nodes can sometimes reveal that they can be grouped together in a hierarchy. All of these tasks can be quickly and easily completed in NVivo.

Moving beyond description

Depending on how you have developed your nodes in NVivo, you might find at this stage that your nodes are quite “low-level” or descriptive. Don’t despair if this is the case – sometimes this type of coding can be a useful springboard for developing more analytic level themes, although this will require some thinking on your part! A good starting point for this is revisiting your research question(s) – it’s easy to have forgotten these by the time you’ve finished your initial coding. If you need further ideas, we recommend Bazeley (2009) and Braun and Clarke (2006) – full citations are below.

Query your data and coding

The query tool in NVivo can be particularly useful at this stage of the process, as it can help you identify patterns in your data that you may have otherwise missed. Scanning the results of a word frequency query, for example, may help to identify additional themes or categories. You might also like to run text searches for specific concepts that have already been coded – this can be checked against manual coding to ensure that nothing has been left out.

Two of our favourite features of the software are coding and matrix coding queries. These allow you to search for patterns across themes, and will also break down nodes according to different demographic or descriptive categories (e.g. what did different age groups say about aspects of the natural environment). Both of these techniques may introduce new ideas and relationships that allow you to develop your analysis further or help to structure your write-up.

Paint a picture

The saying that “a picture paints a thousand words” definitely applies to qualitative data! NVivo has a range of visualization tools that can help you think through patterns and relationships. Try using Project or Concept Maps, as well as Explore and Comparison Diagrams. In addition to assisting with your thinking, they can also be exported and included in your write-up or PowerPoint presentation. Don’t feel like you have to use NVivo visualizations only – remember that applications such as Inspiration and XMind are also great, as is good old pen and paper.

Plan for your write-up

Unfortunately, there’s no magic button in NVivo that will complete your write-up for you. When you’re at this stage, there are a number of ways you can work with your NVivo projects. We often print or export node content so that we can refer to it as we write. As qualitative researchers, we also like to include verbatim extracts in our writing, so find it useful to copy content from an NVivo node and paste it directly into a Word document (if you are lucky to have a dual screen set up you can even drag it directly across).

Our last piece of advice? Don’t rush the steps above – once you’ve completed your initial coding it’s easy to rush headlong into trying to write up. Taking the time to review and reflect on your coding is where some of the real insights can occur, and that’s one of the many pleasures of completing a qualitative project!


Bazeley, P. (2009). Analysing qualitative data: More than ‘identifying themes’. Malaysian Journal of Qualitative Research, 2, 6–22.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.