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Top 10 uses for coding stripes in NVivo

16 March 2016 - BY Kath McNiff

Coding stripes are those cheery colored bars in the margin of your NVivo sources - they're a bit like the highlighters you might use on printed documents.

These colorful stripes not only brighten up your project but they also pack an analytical punch...when you know how to use them.

So, here's the top ten uses for coding stripes...it's not an exhaustive list but it's a good start:

1. See what you've coded

If you're just getting started with NVivo - this first tip is for you.

Imagine you're reading an interview transcript in NVivo and the participant mentions 'sense of place'. You find this interesting and surprising - and it adds a new dimension to your research question.

You'd like to capture this theme and see if other participants talk about it too.

So, you select the paragraph and code it at a node (file it in a container) called 'sense of place'.

To make sure your coding worked, you go to the View tab and turn on coding stripes:


The coding stripe is a reassuring sign that the paragraph has been coded successfully.

So, to start off with, coding stripes help you keep track of your coding. Leave them turned on as you code and easily check your progress - it's so satisfying.

2.  Uncode with a click (or two)

If you make a mistake or change your mind - you can right click on a coding stripe to uncode the content. Easy.


3.  Open a node from its coding stripe

Here's a simple but really useful tip - just double-click on a coding stripe to open the node.

Imagine you just coded a paragraph at the node Habitat and you want to check if you made a sound decision - double-click the Habitat coding stripe and see what other content has been coded there.  


Does your paragraph measure up or would it be better categorized as something else?

4. See color-coded themes

You can assign colors to your nodes so that you can see them in coding stripes.

For example, if you assign red and blue to your 'positive' and 'negative' nodes, you can scroll through a source and easily spot the positive and negative comments:


5. See how themes are related

Once you've coded a few sources, you might want to explore the emerging relationships between themes.

Let's say you coded material at the node Real Estate Development - you can open the node to explore all the references. While you're in the node, you can turn on coding stripes to see which other nodes also code this content.


6. See the demographic data related to a theme

While exploring the references in a node, you can check the demographic details of your research participants. This came up in a recent #nvivochat on Twitter - you can check that out here.

When choosing the coding stripes you want to display - go into Case Classifications and select the attribute you're interested in.

You can even color-code the attribute values in your project so that they are easier to spot (forgive the gender stereotyping but it's a good example):


7. Check for coding density

After you (or another team member) has coded a source, you might want to go back and review the coding.

The coding density bar shows you which parts of a source are more heavily coded than others - the darker the stripe, the more coding there is.

You can easily find the 'meaty' content or review the areas with little or no coding (nothing interesting going on or did you just forget to code it)?

And, if you hover over the coding density stripe, you can see the nodes that were used. This is handy - especially when you have a lot of nodes and don't want to display all the stripes.


8. See the coding done by different members of a team

Let's say that different members of your team have been coding the same set of documents. When you merge the documents, you can turn on coding stripes to see who coded what.

This can prompt useful discussion and can help teams to develop coding consistency.

And yes, you can choose a color for each coder (you do this on the Users tab in Project Properties).


9. See the same stripes across a number of sources

Following on from the previous tip - if you're exploring a number of documents and want to see the same set of stripes in each - on the View tab, click Coding Stripes and then click Show Items Last Selected.

You could also do this if, say, you wanted to zero-in on three main themes and see where they occur across a set of transcripts.

10. View only your coding 

Again, if you're working in a team - you're probably looking to demonstrate reliability across coders. To do this, it's critical that each coder can see only her/his coding stripes while coding - don’t give up and try to code without viewing coding stripes!

Here’s a strategy that our own @CynthiaWJacobs recently discovered  - it helps you avoid the project management chore of creating clean ‘uncoded’ project copies for each team member.

While coding, go to View > Coding Stripes > Selected Items. Choose Users, and tick the box for yourself. 


Now that you’re seeing your own User stripe, right click on it and choose Show Sub-Stripes > More Sub-Stripes. 


Select the node folder that contains all the nodes you'll be coding to (and be sure to uncheck any unnecessary subfolders).

Now, your user stripe is like a coding density bar and you'll see coding stripes for all of your own coding:


Go forth and use coding stripes with confidence

As you can see, coding stripes definitely pull their weight as part of your analytical toolkit. Experiment to see what works best for you.

To find out everything you wanted to know about coding stripes but were afraid to ask - check out this help topic.

If you have more ideas about how to use coding stripes please share it with us on Twitter using the #nvivo hashtag or post it on the LinkedIn NVivo User Group.