On this part of the website, you have free access to up to date click-by-click instructions for NVivo on Windows. Simply click on the headings below to reveal the instructions.

Use the index of click-by-click instructions as a companion guide to help you find the instructions you need, or browse through the instructions below that accompany this chapter.

8.a. Import pdf Files

  • Ribbon: Import: Files > Select the File(s) > Open > Import.

8.b. Coding by Region

  • Navigation View: Data > Files.
  • List View: Double-click on the pdf (Figure 8.3).
  • Ribbon: PDF Selection > Region.
  • Select the text.
  • Code via drag-and-drop or right-clicking, as you would for text (Chapter 3).


Figure 8.3 Selection and coding of a region in a pdf File

8.c. Importing literature from a bibliographic database

Preparing to export from your reference manager

Select the references you want from your reference database, to import into NVivo. Your selection might be based on a keyword, a combination of keywords, or some other sorting feature of that software. If you are unsure how to select references, check the Help files in your bibliographic software.


Export the references you want from your bibliographic software in a format that will be recognized by NVivo. These are:

  • EndNote – export as .xml and keep the .xml file in the same folder as the .enl file in order for it to pick up the relative links to all of the pdfs.
  • RefWorks – export as .ris
    • Files attached using the RefWorks ‘attachment feature’ cannot be exported with the .ris format.
  • Zotero – export as .ris
  • Mendeley – export as .ris

NVivo will recognize already imported references and provide options for ignoring or updating those.

Importing your literature in NVivo

  • Ribbon: Import > Select your exported reference manager file.
  • The import dialogue in Figure 8.4 will open.


Figure 8.4 Selecting options in the import dialogue for reference material from EndNote (Windows)

  • Change the default for Name by to Author and Year. This is so that the author and year of publication will show in the Node at the top of each coded passage – the kind of information you will need when writing up from your literature. NVivo will add the database record number for the source to the name, as well, to assist with Cite While You Write functions.
  • Keep the Assign to as A single classification – unless you want to create multiple classification sheets, with one for each type of worksheet (publication) you have included in your bibliographic database.
  • Note where NVivo is going to locate the files, and modify to your preferred location.
  • Unless you recorded the abstracts or made notes, or the original articles are attached to the reference, then you will only be able to use the metadata (which tends to be less useful than using both the metadata and the qualitative data).

8.d. Compound Query

For this example, we use the Environmental Change sample Project to look for a File in which the calculation of shoreline change is discussed.

  • Ribbon: Explore > Compound.
  • Subquery 1: Criteria > enter a string (e.g., calculat*) > OK.
  • NEAR Content: Options > Change ‘Overlapping’ to ‘In Custom Context’ > Specify > number of words (e.g., 99) > OK > OK.
  • Subquery 2: Criteria > enter a string (e.g., shore*) > OK.
  • Run.
  • You find the article and can investigate further (Figure 8.5).
  • If you want to save this Query to run it again later:
    • Ribbon: Explore > Last Run Query > Tick Add to Project > Name it > OK.


Figure 8.5 Compound Query Results in the Environmental Change Project