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Incorporate Time in Your NVivo Project

12 October 2017 - BY Hideki Nakazato

Research project using time elements

When undertaking qualitative research, the element of time within the data you’re analyzing is something you may need to take into account. When you are interested in changes or the persistence of something in your project, you need to consider how you will deal with time. This could be things as far reaching as the reaction of clients over a series of counselling sessions, the relationship of married couples captured by a series of interviews, the discourse on fatherhood presented in the media or statements of politicians and other stakeholders over time in the records of Parliament meetings.
One tool for incorporating time into your research analysis easily is NVivo. Bazeley and Jackson explain how to manage different types of interview data that contains time elements. They suggest using sets for interviews done in waves, and coding (at nodes) for when time data is embedded within each document (Bazeley and Jackson, 2013: p.66).
In this blog, I will extend these examples and show you how to use NVivo to deal with time elements in preparing datasets and analyzing the data.

Collecting materials for each time period

In this example, assume that you want to compare the changes in the discourse on fatherhood presented in newspaper articles. In this case, each source only represents one period of time. You can use sets to collect sources in corresponding groups that represent time periods as Bazeley and Jackson suggested. Search folders are similar to sets except that you set up the criteria for inclusion in advance e.g. all attribute values for time greater and including 1970 but less than 1975. As you import new data, the search folder will automatically collect items that meet the criteria you specified. So, if each newspaper article has an attribute that contains date information, creating search folders that specify criteria for date information enable you to collect all the articles in a certain time period into the corresponding search folder.

In addition to these tools, you can use nodes to code data for certain time periods. I prefer using nodes for this purpose. As Bazeley and Jackson suggest, it should be used when one source material contains content that refers to different time periods. Besides, you can deal with information about time period in the same way as you deal with concept nodes. For example, when you double click on the node for 1960s, you can see the contents of all the articles in that period in one window. You can indicate coding stripes for time periods while you open a concept node (Figure1).
Figure 1 Using nodes to incorporate time periods into a Nvivo project

Using coding matrix queries to compare the discourse between time periods

After collecting articles for different time periods in their corresponding sets, search folders, or nodes, and coding the contents of the articles into concept nodes, you can use coding matrix queries to compare the coding between time periods (Figure 2). Set the time periods in the rows, and concept nodes in the columns. In the matrix, you can see that how many articles refer to fathers in relation to each concept in the column. This way, you can examine the transition of the discourse on fatherhood over time in this example).

hidekiblog2.PNGFigure 2 Compare time periods using a matrix coding query

Bazeley, P., & Jackson, K. (2013). Qualitative data analysis with NVivo (2nd ed.): SAGE.