Research Library

Preparing and importing survey data for NVivo

Compatible file types and software

You can import survey data into NVivo from:

  • An Excel file (.xls or .xlsx)

  • SurveyMonkey (Windows only)

  • Qualtrics (Windows only)

  • A comma separated values file or tab separated values file (.csv file or .txt) (Windows only)

Setting up your survey in Excel for NVivo import (Windows and Mac)

Once in NVivo, changes cannot be made to survey data. It is worth taking the time to set it up your survey properly before
importing it into NVivo. You might like to create a separate worksheet specifically for importing into NVivo. See Figure 1.

  • The questions are in the column headings in row 1. Make sure that they are brief. If you want them to appear in NVivo in a particular order, number them as 01, 02 etc. Otherwise, the order will be alphanumeric in NVivo.

  • Only the first row should contain column or field names, (e.g. ID, Gender, Age, Question 1).

  • Make sure that one column contains a unique identifier (e.g. an ID number for each survey respondent). It’s helpful to place this column first.

  • When there is no response for a closed ended question, leave the cell blank.

  • Make sure that the answers to closed ended questions are brief.

Figure 1

Guidelines on importing surveys into NVivo

SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics (Windows only)

  • If your SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics survey has long questions (more than 250 characters) you need to shorten them in the Import Wizard.

  • If you have long answers to closed ended questions you need to export the survey into Excel and shorten the answers there before importing into NVivo. 

TIP: When you create your survey in SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics, keep the answers for closed ended questions short).
  • If you are importing from SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics you will have direct access from NVivo to your account.

  • If you access Qualtrics through your university or organization, you will need to ask for the university’s or organization’s API token. 

​See more information about the Qualtrics API token

Mac users - you will need to export your survey from SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics as an Excel file and make any adjustments there. Then you can import the Excel file as a Dataset in NVivo - Mac (see below).


If you are importing from Excel, close the Excel file first. 

Figure 2a (Windows version)

Figure 2b (Mac version)

Survey Import Wizard (Windows version)

After preparing your survey, follow the Import Wizard prompts in NVivo – it will not only import your survey but set it up for analysis. You also have the option to code automatically for themes and sentiment, but you will need to check and refine the autocoded material.

Figure 3

Dataset Assistant (Mac)

After preparing your survey in Excel, import as a dataset in NVivo. The Dataset Assistant will prompt you as to what you need to do. In figure 4, is where you indicate any date/time delimiters:

Figure 5 is where you go through each column and indicate whether the response is codable text or a classifying field:


After the file is imported you need to autocode the survey to code for all the open ended questions and create cases for the respondents and to attach the values of the closed-ended questions to the cases. To do that, right click on the file and select ‘Autocode’ and then ‘Dataset’. Follow the instructions in the Autocode Dataset Assistant.