Bring in your sources and get organized


The type of source material you include in your project depends on your research question and methodology—and NVivo lets you import a wide range of materials from interview transcripts and journal articles to audio/video recordings and social media content.

Refer to About Sources for detailed information about the types of data you can import. This topic provides some ideas for collecting your data and organizing it once you have brought it in.

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Bring your sources into NVivo

Use the options on the External Data tab to import your source materials:


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Collecting your data

Some ideas to consider during data collection:

  • Capture information about the setting, social context, body language or tone. It also helps to record your first impressions and interpretations—these can be hard to remember later on. You can create or import this information as a memo in NVivo.  

  • Record the demographic details of your participants—you could do this in a spreadsheet and then import it (or add it directly in NVivo).

  • When you are out in the field, you may want to record interviews, take photos, clip web pages or make notes. You can use Evernote (a popular cloud-based app) to gather this material on your smartphone or tablet.  Refer to Collect data on mobile devices (with Evernote) for more information about working with your Evernote content in NVivo.

  • Recording equipment can be distracting—take note of how the presence of the camera or recorder affects participants (create or import this information as a memo).
  • Keep a log of what you are doing—date and time, location, the events that took place, the surrounding conditions and your personal feelings about the events.

  • Do you require consent from all participants? To keep everything in one place, consider importing consent forms as sources in your project.

  • If you want to edit audio, video or images you will need to do this before importing the material into NVivo.

  • Many ethnographic and social research projects ask participants to record their own experiences. If you are gathering this type of data, be aware that people have different levels of expertise in using video/audio equipment and you may end up with large amounts of unusable material. Ask participants to keep a log of what they are doing and why they chose to record particular events.

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Collect data on mobile devices (with Evernote)

Mobile devices are fast becoming vital tools in the data gathering process. If you want to use a smartphone or tablet to record interviews, take photos or make notes—and you want to analyze this data in NVivo—you should consider using Evernote (a popular cloud-based app).

When you're out and about, you can use Evernote to gather and organize research related material. For example, you could use the features in Evernote to:

  • Record interviews with research participants

  • Record voice memos that remind you of things to follow-up

  • Snap photos of the whiteboard during a brainstorming session with your research team

  • Capture your research setting in a photo and use Evernote's photo editing features to include arrows, explanatory text or pixelate faces to protect privacy

  • Make notes about a book you're reading and snap photos of the pages you've annotated

  • Take photos and make notes about an interesting conference paper

You can also collaborate with other members of your research team using shared notebooks in Evernote.

Everything you store in your Evernote account is automatically synced across your devices, so you can access your data wherever you are. When you're back at your desk, you can connect to your Evernote account (from within NVivo) and bring your material in for analysis.

There are a range of other research apps that work with Evernote—you can explore the Evernote website to find apps that support the way you want to work.

Refer to Import from Evernote for more information about how to work with your Evernote content.

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Work with transcripts as document sources

If you have interview or focus group transcripts saved as Word documents (or text files), you can import them as document sources in NVivo:


If your documents are tightly structured by question, answer and speaker—you can use paragraph styles to format the headings. Then you can use auto coding to gather the responses by question or speaker.

You may also want to use annotations to capture the tone of the conversation, including body language and displays of emotion.

Work with synchronized transcripts in your audio and video sources

If you have audio or video recordings of interviews or focus groups, you can import the media as audio or video and include a synchronized transcript:


There are a number of ways to approach transcription—for example, you can:

  • Get your material transcribed using an integrated transcription service (TranscribeMe). Without leaving NVivo, you can purchase transcripts for selected audio or video files—when the transcripts are ready, they are automatically downloaded and synchronized with the media.

  • Transcribe the media in NVivo —you can play and pause the media, transcribing as you go. To support this process, you can use options on the ribbon, shortcut keys or a footpedal.

  • Import a transcript as long as it is in the correct format.

  • Work without a transcript—you can code and annotate directly on the media timeline.

When working with synchronized transcripts, you may want to consider the following:

  • You could add a column to record more detail—for example, you might add a column for Speaker, Body Language or Emotion. This column can then be used to auto code the content (you might want to gather all the comments for a particular focus group participant or gather all the Enthusiastic responses).

  • There are benefits to transcribing your own material—the transcription process brings you closer to your data (helping you to form early impressions) and you have control over the accuracy and completeness. Of course, this may not be practical on large scale projects and you may prefer to get your materials transcribed using TranscribeMe.

  • If you decide to work with audio or video directly (without a transcript), you will not be able to use Word Frequency or Text Search queries to explore the content.  

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When do I import my data and how much is enough?

You can import source material at any stage of your project.

Depending on your research design and methodology, you might import all your source material and then begin analysis— or, you may continue to collect and analyze data until you reach a point of saturation (when you are no longer hearing or seeing new information).  

The other question to consider is whether you have gathered a variety of data to support your research question—this concept is commonly referred to as triangulation.  Looking at a topic from more than one standpoint can increase the validity and credibility of your findings.  For example, you might use more than one method to gather data—combining interviews with observations, surveys and social media content.   In NVivo, you can check whether an emerging theme is valid by running a matrix coding query to see it if appears in different types of sources:


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Ways to organize your sources

NVivo provides flexible ways to organize your data using  folders, sets and Search Folders—you can experiment to see what suits you best:



You can also use source classifications as a way to organize or compare sources based on their attributes—for example, find all the articles by a particular author or all the interviews that were conducted by Mary. If you import bibliographical data from reference management tools like EndNote any new sources are automatically classified—refer to About Classifying Sources for more information.

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