About queries


NVivo queries offer a flexible approach to exploring your data—you can create quick and simple queries to get a sense of what is happening in the data or you can build detailed queries for a more focused perspective.

This topic introduces the different types of queries and helps you to get up and running. You can also watch the video tutorials Explore your coding and Find themes and analyze text.

In this topic


What are queries?

Queries provide a flexible way to gather and explore subsets of your data. In NVivo, you can create queries to

  • Find and analyze the words or phrases in your sources, annotations and nodes. You can find specific words or those that occur most frequently.

  • Ask questions and find patterns based on your coding and check for coding consistency among team members.

You can create the following queries in NVivo:

Query Description Examples
Text Search Find all occurrences of a word, phrase, or concept.
  • Find and analyze all occurrences of the phrase alternative energy.
  • Find the words policy or legislation and code them at the new node government.
  • Find content where the terms rising sea level and property occur within 20 words of each other.
  • Find all references to river, and find similar words such as stream, Nile, watercourse.
Word Frequency Find the most frequently occurring words or concepts.
  • Look for the most frequently occurring words in a set of interviews.
  • Find the most frequently occurring themes in a document—where similar words are grouped into concepts.
Coding Find all content coded at selected nodes, a combination of nodes, or a combination of nodes and attributes.
  • What do property developers say about rising sea levels?—run a query to gather content that has been coded at rising sea levels and at nodes with the attribute property developer.
  • Show me where content coded at coral bleaching is near content coded at rising sea temperatures.

Matrix Coding

Find a combination of items (usually nodes and attributes) and display the results in a table.

  • Compare what small, medium and large businesses say about alternative energy.
  • Compare how the terms sustainable, conservation and global warming  are used by different lobby groups—run text searches and create a node for each term and then use the nodes in the matrix criteria.
Compound Use a compound query to
  • Combine a text search query with a coding query
  • Search for two words that occur in the same paragraph (or other specified context).
  • Find content where the term rising sea temperature precedes content coded at coral.
  • Find content where the words habitat and sustainable occur in the same paragraph.
Coding comparison

Compare coding done by two users or two groups of users.

This query measures the 'inter-rater reliability' or the degree of agreement for coding done by selected users.

Compare coding between users in different locations or from different disciplines.


Find items that are associated in a particular way with other items. The items could be associated by coding, attribute value, relationships, 'see also' links or models.

  • Find the nodes that I've used to code Interview with Franz and Interview with Vikram.
  • Which interviews have been coded at wind power and solar power?
  • Which sources or nodes have a certain set of attribute values—for example, who are the survey participants from Riverside and Mountain View?
  • List any 'relationship' nodes that include water purification.
  • Find any models that include homeowners or farmers.

Refer to Move forward with queries and visualizations for more ideas about how you can use queries in your project.

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How do I get started with queries?

The best way to become familiar with queries is to run some simple queries and preview the results.

When you first start creating queries in NVivo, you may want to use the Query Wizard—the Wizard steps you through the process of creating a new query. You can use the Wizard to create:

  • Text Search queries

  • Word Frequency queries

  • Coding queries

  • Matrix Coding queries

If you are familiar with NVivo queries (or need to use query features that are not available in the Wizard), you can to create your query outside the Wizard.  This is the only way to create Compound queries, Coding Comparison queries and Group queries.

Refer to Create, edit and manage queries for more information on creating queries.

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Create a query with dynamic scope

When you create a query that you want to run at regular intervals—for example, a Coding query to see how your coding is evolving—it is a good idea to use a Search Folder as the scope of your query.

Search Folders contain items that currently meet specified search criteria—as your project changes, the items in the Search Folder change too.

For example, you could create a Search Folder that contains only sources in the source classification Interview, and use the Search Folder as the scope of a coding query. Every time you run the query, only sources that meet the Search Folder's criteria (have the classification Interview) will be in scope.

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Understand query results

When you run a query, the results are displayed in Detail View—for example:

  • Coding query results are a temporary node and you can click on the different tabs to explore the results

  • Word Frequency query results are a list of words and additional tabs providing ways to visualize the results (for example, as a word cloud).

The results of some types of queries can be saved in your project—for example, you can save the results of a Text Search query as a node.

After you have explored the results in Detail View, you can decide whether or not you want to save them. You may have no need to save the results—if you do not save them, they are discarded when you close the Detail View window.

If you regularly run a particular query and want to save the results in a certain way, you can specify this in the query properties dialog box. For example, you might want to automatically save the results as a node each time you run the query.

If you delete or update project items that are included in saved query results—the results are updated to reflect the changes. If you add new items that match the query criteria they are not automatically included in the results. To make sure that your query results accurately reflect the current state of your project, it is best to run the query again.

Refer to Manage query results for more information.

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