QSR released NVivo 9 to schedule on the 21st of October, 2010.

My first reaction is very positive. I’m going to enjoy training people on this version mainly because it cedes much more control back to the user. There is no additional cost for new licences and upgrade prices from version 8 are very reasonable.

I am writing this ‘blog’ from the perspective of  a trainer & consultant

The key improvements are:

‘Ribbon’ replaces the ‘tool bar’:

Anyone used to MS Offices releases since 2007 will instantly recognise this much more user friendly and intuitive system for navigating software. It will simplify training and aid people being more adventurous as they get to grips with NVivo 9.

You can now have classification/attributes sets:

This improvement is most welcome. More and more people are now using mixed methods and as a consequence, often have very large data sets. Having just one set of attributes often left users with massive classification tables which made running queries difficult as one had to scroll forever to find the attribute on which to build the query. Now the word ‘casebook’ is gone because you can have as many ‘casebooks’ as you like. For example, you could have one of attributes set for your demographics and another for your questionnaire. Switching from one ‘classification sheet’ for a group of nodes takes seconds and will be very easy to teach. In short, this facility will make querying your data easier and allow for seamless integration between the qualitative and quantitative integration of your mixed methods questionnaire.

You can now import spreadsheets:

This one might cause some initial confusion from a training perspective. You could always import spreadsheets as attributes subject to a few simple enough formatting rules. Now you can also import them as sources. Whereas importing spreadsheets as sources will no doubt be very helpful in some studies, people may confuse the two. I had a case this week in a very big study involving six coders where they wrote the demographic information into the text of the interview transcript fully believing they could then run queries on these ‘fields’. So it’s our challenge (trainers) to ensure people understand the difference. I still think it’s a very worthwhile improvement to the software.

Simplification of nodes

A very significant development and a very welcome one! When creating nodes, you can now define the type of node you want and create your folders to organise them into. So you could have a separate folder called open coding for your first round of thematic nodes. The concept of the tree, free and case node still exist but users are free to apply them as they need. My only concern from a training point of view is the prescribed folder for the case node is now gone. The case node is quite a difficult concept for some people to grasp as evidenced by the number of people who set up project databases without them. This is often by oversight rather than informed choice because they frequently go about setting them up post training when they realise that they have ruled out the possibility of an entire layer of analysis (cross tabulation with attributes) by not having them. Especially as they have gone to the trouble of collecting the demographic information in the first place. The challenge will be for trainers to raise conciousness about nodes but I do think the new freedom for analysts makes it a worthwhile trade off.


Users all had the option of customising reports but this was restricted to narrowing or broadening the scope of the report and including or excluding a small number of key fields such as the ‘created on’ or ‘modified by’ fields for a given item. However, all that has changed. NVivo users can now design and build and save their own reports which include a much wider range of fields. This innovation, combined with the new freedom just outlined about nodes, really does put the power to design, build and customise a unique and powerful database back into the hands of the qualitative analyst. I have no doubt people will be exchanging NVivo report templates on line as the NVivo 9 user base grows


There are many new visual tools in NVivo 9. More importantly, even the ones that were already there are now more accessible due to the new ‘ribbon’ and updated context menus. As always with in NVivo, the live data that supports these visual tools is linked so drilling down is even easier and I believe people will use these tools more in N9 than in previous versions

Source attributes:

You can now store attributes against sources. This was possible as far back as version 2 but was lost when the casebook became the single integration point between peoples’ quantitative and qualitative data sets. The advantage of bringing back the source attribute is that users can now get seamless integration between other popular programs used by qualitative researchers such as EndNote for example. Also, unlike version 2 where we only had documents and memos as sources, now we can apply these attributes to media files as well such as images, audio, video or even webpages for example. Combine this innovation with the new attribute sets already discussed you have a very powerful tool for organising your data.

For example, supposing you wanted to conduct your literature review in NVivo. You could filter search and code your imported academic papers which are say in PDF format by a attaching a set of fields such as; author, date and subject whilst attaching a completely different set of fields to your focus group transcripts, perhaps location for example, and then use the query tool in conjunction with all of them to sort, filter and code them.

 In conclusion:

QSR continue to lead the market in qualitative data analysis software precisely because they are never prepared to sit on their laurels and always seek to innovate, change and improve their product.  This is not an independent review in that qdatraining.eu work almost exclusively with NVivo so we have a vested interest in the software. However, we did not choose NVivo as the primary tool for computer aided qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) by accident. This choice is most definitely by design because we believe it is the best option currently available for this purpose. That is our opinion as an independent organisation who have no commercial stake or interest in QSR International and who do not sell the software nor receive any form of gratuity of any kind from them. 

Personally, I am looking forward to training, consulting and supporting users of qualitative researchers who will be using NVivo 9.

Additional information:

For more information about the new features in NVivo 9 go to http://www.qsrinternational.com/

For a free and fully functional 30 day trial go to http://www.qsrinternational.com/products_free-trial-software.aspx

For the ‘whats new information’ http://www.qsrinternational.com/news_whats-new_detail.aspx?view=369

For information on QSR conducted training workshops in every corner of the world: http://www.qsrinternational.com/training-and-events.aspx

For information on our training workshops anywhere in Europe: www.qdatraining.eu/enquiry

For information on-line training from us anywhere in the world: http://www.qdatraining.eu/online



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