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How a PhD student developed her own NVivo Toolkit

06 November 2014 - IN folders, internals, NVivo, toolkit

While completing her PhD, Maureen O'Neill developed a four stage process (or toolkit) for working with NVivo. In this post, she introduces The NVivo Toolkit and gives us a sneak peek into the first stage of the process.

Initial explorations

Have you ever felt that you have been given all the tools in a toolkit but you simply don’t know what to do with them?

I wrote The NVivo Toolkit so that you can have a helpful guide by your side to step you through the tools available in the qualitative software known as NVivo.

I started realising quite early in my first year of the PhD that every good tool is very efficient once you drive it, rather than letting it drive you.

My initial exploration of NVivo was to attend some very helpful workshops, but when I got home, I felt quite alone. Although I was aware of  some tools in NVivo from the very useful search tank in the program and the resources on the QSR International website, my dilemma was “where do I start"?

Making a blueprint

Consequently, I started planning out a blueprint of the stages and the associated tools I required from NVivo to achieve each stage of data analysis.

I came up with four distinct stages (and these are outlined in The NVivo Toolkit):

  1. Descriptive
  2. Topic
  3. Analytic
  4. Drawing conclusions

Getting started with the Descriptive stage

Here is a small glimpse of the descriptive stage - using my own project as an example:

Similar to a store shed, the ’Sources’ section has the main sections of internals, externals and memos and matrix frameworks.

I choose the internals to load my interviews (39) and also commenced creating sub folders of details and contextual information that pertained to my study (schedules, articles, field notes etc.).

The reason I used this internal section was it has both the import and export functionality. So I could easily import and export any information I required for the initial organisation and structure of my data findings.

I created sub-folders for audio recordings, coding information, conceptual models, ethics information along with a sub-folder for dissemination of findings (notes to myself about how and what I would publish about my study…one of the main ideas in this folder led to the commencement of the toolkit!)

That's just a taster of how I approached the descriptive phase. This video covers everything in more detail:


You can download The NVivo Toolkit to support you as you work on your own projects.

It would be great to hear how you get on - your feedback is most welcome.