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Our Research Director in conversation with Kristi Jackson on her impressions of NVivo 12

20 March 2018 - BY Silvana di Gregorio

In this blog, QSR International research director Silvana di Gregorio chats with NVivo Platinum Trainer, and Queri president, Dr Kristi Jackson about her first impressions of NVivo 12.

Silvana di Gregorio: Hi Kristi. Thanks for agreeing to talk to me about your impressions about NVivo 12. You have been going through this new version because you are updating your book with Pat Bazeley – Qualitative Data Analysis with NVivo. But our readers may not know that you have been using and consulting in NVivo for many years.  Can you tell me when you started to use NVivo and which version was it?

Kristi Jackon: I started in the very first version of NVivo. I actually started learning NUD*IST – pre-NVivo. It must have been 1994-5 and at that point Lyn Richards (co-founder of QSR International) had a relationship with the president of my company, Susan Stein, and we were the first North American distributors of the software, So, I just coincidentally I ended up being engaged in those early rounds of things probably before they were public.

First Impressions

SdG: And that relationship has continued as QSR International has grown. So, what was your immediate reaction when you opened up NVivo 12?

KJ: That it looked nice and slim in a good way. It looked like it had a fitness check and it had been doing a good job working on its cholesterol and sugar. Everything looked cleaner, there were fewer menus, instead of having everything staring at you on the screen and wondering where to start. It was obvious that you could start playing with the tool and then you could drill in to see more options when you need them. I noticed right away the simplification of the Ribbon. And because all of those buttons in the Navigation View are now in a folder list, they aren’t such a mystery. So, the changes in both the Ribbon and the Navigation View are going to make it much easier for people to get in and start playing!

And you know, that’s no small task when you think about the fact that it’s probably easier to use and yet it has, once again, gotten more complicated. New tools have been added and no major tools have been removed. It is quite a feat of the developers to have tackled both of those things. That’s a huge user experience endeavour – to add features while making the interface more fluid and less confusing.

SdG: Well, I’ll let the team know.

KJ: It’s a pretty impressive skillset to be able to do that.   

Changes in terminology and layout

SdG: What do you think about changes in the terminology?

KJ: I think they are all good. I like the introduction of the familiar word, “Codes”. I really like Notes, too, as an area in the Navigation View for writing – which is where you keep your Memos. That area for writing is very clear.

SdG: And also now that See Also Links are under Notes I personally think that will make the connection that somehow they are linked to note-taking.

KJ: Right. And I do think they are a kind of thinking tool. You write notes so that you don’t forget from moment to moment the interesting ideas that come along. And that is exactly what the See Also Links do. They help you remember later, when you look back, the things that were salient at the time. So, it makes complete sense to me that the See Also Links are in that Notes area.

SdG: How about the way that Classifications are now grouped?

KJ: Yeah, I think I like it. I like that in the Navigation View, Cases and Case Classifications are right next to each other. I was doing a lot of work in trainings to talk about the connections between those two different parts of the software and it would take people a while to get it. So I really like that they are next to each other.

New Features

SdG: I don’t know if you have had a chance to play with the new Crosstab feature. What do you think about it?

KJ: I like it a lot. I like that it helps move us past some of the biggest shortcomings of the Matrix Coding Query, like calculating the percentage of the population instantly so you can get a rate. I also like that researchers can put in two attributes in the Crosstab, so that they are nested underneath one another in a table.  Researchers are looking at interaction effects of things like age and gender and in the Matrix Coding Query you need to do a lot of fancy footwork to run multiple things to get that done. It is good that the Matrix Coding Query is still there because of some of the extra features that you have in it, but I think the Crosstab is a great new tool.

SdG: The new SPSS import, in your experience do you think it is something that people have been looking for?

KJ: I do. I get questioned about importing SPSS data and it will be interesting that people can do that so seamlessly, now. I’ll want to watch and see if that increases the migration of data into NVivo.

SdG: I don’t know if you have tried out what they have done with pattern-based coding – seen what they have done that is a bit different.

KJ: Only very briefly and it was pretty clear from the trainer meeting that researchers have more control of selecting and unselecting things.

SdG: Yes, they have made pattern-based coding more transparent. As before, it is based on you coding a small percentage of data in a ‘training set’. The algorithm figures out which words were most relevant in the text that you coded for a particular code. When you run it on uncoded text, it now shows you those words before it codes. You can immediately go through and tick the words that you judge are most relevant for that code. And then it will automatically code where those words occur to that code.

Impact on use of NVivo

SdG: Do you think with this new release that you might start working differently in NVivo?

KJ: Yes, I would be more likely to tinker with that autocoder, particularly as a first pass through the data when I wasn’t involved in collecting it and I need to get a sense of – at least what patterns are there from an autocoding perspective – as a backdrop against which to think about next steps or how I want to go through the data or how I want to proceed with coding.

And I think I’m more likely to hire team members or work collaboratively with other researchers when they don’t know the software because I think the interface is more manageable now. So, I am going to have to do a lot less technical handholding to get all of us through the analysis.

Impact on how NVivo is taught

SdG: And do you think that you might start teaching NVivo differently?

KJ: I don’t think that the steps of working through a training or the tools that I show are going to be different but the way I talk through them and the analogies I use will probably change.

SdG: The thing is now when you open up a Node you get the tab that relates to the Node; when you open up a File, you get the tab that relates to that – so I think it will make the software much easier to teach.

KJ: And that probably means that more of those metaphors and those teaching strategies can be directed towards the methodological issues around handling qualitative data and less around how to help people to understand the internal structure of the database and what’s connected.

Best thing about NVivo 12

SdG: So, if you had to choose one thing, what do you think is the best thing about NVivo 12.

KJ: The increased clarity in the Navigation View and the Ribbon – which are the two main places that you go to start finding things in the database. So, it is a more friendly launchpad. It’s interesting that the Ribbon is simpler so when you look at it, it’s not so scary. And the Navigation View is actually more detailed because you can see all those folders, but that increases clarity. Changing these two things was the right move to make it easier for people to have a safe launch.

SdG: And would you recommend people to upgrade to NVivo 12.

KJ: Yes. People with large projects that really want to play with some of this autocoding are going to want to move but also teachers who are using it in class are going to find it much easier to instruct by including it in a methods course. I can’t think of a reason that I would tell somebody not to upgrade.