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The hidden power of ‘see also’ links

19 June 2017 - BY Marie-Hélène Paré

Marie-Hélène Paré shares her insights as an Nvivo user, trainer and online consultant, into the power of 'see also' links when using NVivo.

NVivo provides a range of links that allow you to embed short comments in the data using annotations, assign a memo to a source or a node with memo links, link a data passage to information outside of your project with hyperlinks, and connect data across your project using see-also links. As an NVivo user, teacher, and online consultant, I can confidently say that of all link features, ‘see also’ links are the least known amongst users and have some hidden analytical power to uncover by NVivo users. In my own research, ‘see also’ links have helped me to link a line of argument across sources during the literature review and trace back the origin of my nodes during the coding process. Here is how you can put these two ideas into practice in your research. 

Develop a line of argument in your literature review, and access it in few seconds

During a literature review process, you synthesize a large amount of information and build a clear line of argument about why your research is needed. You connect the work of different authors and highlight those that contradict or that give support to others. The task of ‘connecting the dots’ is done naturally. However, it does happen, and always will, that we forget to connect one key passage with the rest. When this happens, we are left frustrated and wonder where this golden quote is in all the material we analyzed. The day I discovered the power of the ‘see also’ links for the literature review, I knew that these frustrating days were behind me.

In my research on community participation in mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in humanitarian settings, I used the ‘see also’ links to connect passages that support the claim that former child soldiers have insights about their mental health needs, and that these needs answer well with traditional healing ceremonies and not western talk therapies as it was initially thought. Although this argument was not at all prevalent in the different discourses about former child soldiers' needs at the time, it nevertheless attracted my attention since it suggested a paradigm shift as far as the knowledge system is concerned. In order not to lose track of this new argument, its passages were linked together using the ‘see also’ links and further connected to other passages that either supported or not this new thesis. Months later, when the literature review was written, I was then able to access with a click the web of statements I created earlier, hence saving me time and bringing efficiency into the process. 



 ‘See also’ link in an article

‘See also’ link in YouTube video                                     

In addition, it is possible to write up your literature review arguments in a memo in NVivo using 'see also' links to the evidence in your data and then export the memo out into Word. The 'see also' links are automatically turned into endnotes at the end of your word document. Any text is included in these endnotes with the name of the source it came from.


Word document with ‘see also’ links turned into endnotes

Answer confidently the question: where are these nodes coming from?

Another powerful way to use ‘see also links’ in an NVivo project is to use them to trace the origin of your nodes. In the above research on MHPSS, the data were coded inductively - meaning that I created the nodes based on the concepts I identified in the data. This produced different kinds of nodes: some descriptive, or in-vivo nodes, which mirrored key expressions in the data and other interpretive nodes which reflect my understanding of the mechanisms at play (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Interpretive nodes are, therefore, more debatable than descriptive nodes as different researchers will interpret the data differently and come up with different labels based on their theoretical orientation and discipline. Being able to trace the archaeological record of your nodes is a powerful way to enhance their confirmability and an effective way to build an audit trail of the coding process that is anchored in evidence.

The screenshot below is an excerpt of the ‘see also’ links list of my NVivo project on MHPSS. Having this list in NVivo is useful for two reasons: first, it keeps a log of the different sources I used the most and the least to generate the interpretive nodes, and it gives me information about the hierarchy of these. For instance, we can see that the document PHC – 1983 provided ground for several interpretive nodes. That information alone reveals the relative importance and transferability of this particular source in future studies on participation in primary health care. Second, the list allows me to jump to the exact passage I pondered over when I created the interpretive nodes. As we can see in the screenshot, if I was asked the question “where is the node lay resources coming from?”, I would right-click on its ‘see also’ link and select Open To Item. The document PHC – 1983 would open in the detail view, with the passage that informed the creation of this node being highlighted in pink. I could then explain my rationale for the creation of the node “lay resources” in the light of the evidence that NVivo provides me. 


List of ‘see also’ links in an NVivo project


‘See also’ links have different applications depending on your research design and approach to qualitative analysis in NVivo. Be creative while using them and you won’t be disappointed! As we showed you in this blog, they can make your research process more efficient, transparent and, above all, enjoyable!

Source: Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.