MethodPDF Available

Aerospace Medicine Systematic Review Group Basic NVivo User Guide for Systematic Reviews



This process is intended to guide potential reviewers through the basic process of using NVivo for integrative or qualitative systematic reviews. The aim is to help you understand how to use NVivo to manage your qualitative data, visually present that data and support you in the writing of your report. Please cite this tool as: Laws, J.M., Bruce-Martin, C., & Winnard, A. (2020). AMSRG Basic NVivo user guide for systematic reviews. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.32525.56800
Aerospace Medicine Systematic Review Group
Basic NVivo User Guide for
Systematic Reviews
This process is intended to guide potential reviewers through the basic process of using NVivo for
integrative or qualitative systematic reviews. The aim is to help you understand how to use NVivo to
manage your qualitative data, visually present that data and support you in the writing of your
It should be noted: NVivo is a pay-for software and you will need to have legal and licensed access
to use a copy. The AMSRG cannot provide access unless you are a Northumbria University staff or
student. To obtain a copy of NVivo or agree your own license please visit: where you can
also find additional online support that may also supplement this guide.
Please cite this tool as: Laws, J.M., Bruce-Martin, C., & Winnard, A. (2020). AMSRG Basic NVivo user
guide for systematic reviews.
NVivo User Guide for Systematic Reviews
The following guide uses NVivo v12 but the procedure is similar for earlier versions.
This guide should be used for qualitative or integrative systematic reviews once you have completed
your systematic search, including the screening of documents against your inclusion-exclusion.
Importing documents into NVivo
You can import the documents you have found during the systematic search by using the “file”
function under the “import” tab. It is worth ensuring that prior to importing you name the
documents you want to include in a clearly identifiable way (for example, by author name and date
of publication) to make the process of managing and finding data easier.
If your systematic search found information that was listed on a webpage, rather than a
downloadable document (you may come across this for abstract-only information on the NASA
technical report server, for example) you can copy and paste the information to a word document
and then import it into NVivo. You may also be interested in managing multiple different data
sources, such as audio files, or removing headers from your data if you are including word
frequency as part of your qualitative analysis. If this is the case, the following link may be helpful:
Once you have selected the documents you would like to import, you can access them by clicking
the “files” button under the “data” tab on the left side of the screen.
Coding your data
Once you have downloaded your included documents you can double click on one of them in the
main window to open it in NVivo.
When you have opened the document, you can begin the process of screening it for relevant codes.
Codes are short descriptors or “tags” that summarise quotations you have highlighted in the
document. Codes can later be used to form groups of information.
To create a code, highlight a segment of text from your document. Then right click the highlighted
text and select “code”.
This will open a pop-up screen where you can create a new code using the “new node” button. If
you have already created some codes they will appear here, and you can assign the highlighted text
to a pre-existing code.
There are three types of codes: nodes; relationships; and cases. For a systematic review you will
likely only need to use the nodes. Nodes are a collection of the data you have highlighted or
references you have used about a specific topic. If you are interested in knowing more about nodes,
you can find a detailed guide here: http://help-
Relationships can be used to demonstrate connections between nodes. For example, you may want
to demonstrate that one node has an impact on another node. If you are interested in knowing more
about relationships, you can find a detailed guide here: http://help-
Cases can be used to detail information about groups, people, or places. For example, you may wish
to use a case to detail that some of your documents came from a specific database or from an
interview with a specific person. If you are interested in knowing more about cases, you can find a
detailed guide here: http://help-
If you choose to create a new node, type in a word, or set of words that describes the paragraph you
have highlighted. The exact wording of your nodes will depend upon the research question you are
trying to answer. Once you have done so, click “OK”.
In the following example, the aim of the review was to identify physiological outcomes related to
astronaut health during spaceflight, as such the name of the node will be the identified physiological
outcome. The highlighted paragraph discusses how astronauts may experience orthostatic
intolerance due to exposure to microgravity. As such, the created node is named “orthostatic
The amount of text in each document that you code is dependent upon the research question and
design. If you are conducting interviews, for example, you will likely code the entire text. If you are
looking for specific information to answer a systematic review question it is more likely you will only
code portions of text relevant to your research question.
You need to repeat the process of coding until you have coded all the information necessary for your
study. You can view the nodes you have created at any time by clicking the “nodes” button under
the “codes” tab on the left-hand side. If you are interested in reporting the amount of text you have
coded from a document for a node (the word frequency/coverage), you can also access this
information by clicking on your node. The word frequency will be displayed underneath each
extracted quotation with the total word coverage displayed next to the file name.
Creating themes
When you have generated all the nodes for your study you need to group them into themes to make
the data more manageable for your report. A theme is a set of related or similar codes. It is not
necessary to wait until you have generated all your nodes to do this, as the process of creating
themes is a fluid and cyclical process. It may be useful to create themes as you are still creating
nodes if you have a lot of nodes or data to make it more manageable. You can always re-arrange
Word frequency/coverage is displayed
here once you click on a node.
these themes later. In the following example, we create a theme of “muscle volume” to include all
nodes related to muscle volume.
To create a theme, (1) go to “codes” and then click on “nodes” to open up the nodes window. (2)
right click near your nodes and select “new node”.
Name the theme and then click “OK”. You can select a new colour for this theme in this panel which
you could use to make it easier to identify it as a theme if you choose.
Your new theme will appear in the nodes window.
To add nodes to the theme, select the node and drag it into the new theme. In this example, we
want to drag “gastrocnemius volume”, “psoas volume”, “multifidus volume” and “soleus volume”
into the “muscle volume” theme, as each of these nodes are related to muscle volume.
Once you have moved your nodes into your theme, they will be listed under that theme in the nodes
You can then repeat the process to assign your remaining codes to a theme. Themes may be purely
logical (e.g. all muscle volume outcomes being placed under the theme “muscle volume”) or may be
informed directly by the literature (e.g. previous researchers may have grouped certain outcomes
under a specific name).
The themes we have created so far (e.g. muscle volume, as shown in the above screenshot) are
named “higher order themes”. You can use the same process to create themes of themes, known as
major themes. For example, if we had the themes “muscle volume”, “muscle cross-sectional area”
and “muscle mass” we might want to group these themes under the major theme of “muscle
outcomes” or “muscular deconditioning”.
You need to repeat the process until all your nodes are grouped under a higher order theme and
each of your higher order themes are grouped under a major theme.
You can click on your nodes at any time to view the information that you have assigned to them. You
can also view this information visually within one of the imported documents by using “coding
stripes”, a guide to which can be found here: http://help-
Creating a thematic map
If you are following the process of thematic analysis you will need to create a thematic map of your
data. If you are not using thematic analysis this can still be useful as a way of visually displaying your
There are a range of other features on NVivo that can be used to visually display your data, including
mind maps and concept maps. If you are interested in learning more about the other features
available, an overview can be found here: http://help-
The thematic map can be created in NVivo and copied into your report. Alternatively, you can create
the thematic map in another programme, such as MS word, which may give you more flexibility over
the map but will take more time to create. One free programme that may be useful for creating
thematic maps can be found at
To begin the process of creating a thematic map in NVivo, click the “maps” tab on the left hand side
and then select “maps” to bring up the maps window.
Right click in the maps window and select “new project map”.
Name your thematic map and then click “OK”.
This will open a blank map. You now need to add data to your thematic map. Go back to your nodes
window (select “codes” on the left-hand side and then select “nodes”) and drag across one of your
major themes into the blank map. NVivo will add it to the map.
Then, using the same method, you can add in the higher order themes related to that major theme
by dragging them into the map. NVivo will automatically link them.
You can then use the same method to add your nodes to the map. You can add multiple data of the
same rank (major theme, higher order theme, or node) at the same time. Repeat this process until
you have added all your data to the map. NVivo will automatically fill in all the links.
You can also move the themes and nodes around the page until you are happy with the design of the
map by clicking and dragging them. Traditionally, a thematic map has the major themes at the right-
hand side and the nodes at the left-hand side. You can also use the “project map tools” tab at the
top of the screen to make additional edits to your map, such as aligning the data neatly and
removing the “child” label from each arrow.
Finally, you may want an overall theme that describes the entire project. This can be labelled as your
research question or something that sums up all data in your project. In this example, we have
named this theme “spaceflight deconditioning”.
You can create this theme by using the same method as you have previously used to create themes,
and then drag your major themes into this theme in the nodes window. Once you have done so you
can add it to the thematic map.
Exporting your thematic map
You can export your thematic map to your report as an image. Right click on your thematic map and
select “export map”. Choose a location to save the map.
If you are using MS Word, you can then import the image by going to the “insert” tab, then
“pictures” then “this device” and selecting the image from where you have saved it.
Accessing your coded data when writing your report
NVivo makes it easy for you to see all data related to a particular outcome to help you write your
report. To see the data for a node, go to the node window (“codes” tab on the left-hand side and
then click “nodes”) and double click on the node you want to view. Any information from your
documents that you highlighted and assigned to that node will then be shown.
While this guide has covered the basics of using NVivo for a systematic review, more detailed
guidance on preparing for write-up using NVivo can be found here: http://help-
Final considerations
For the purposes of undertaking a systematic review, it is highly recommended that another
researcher with expertise in qualitative methods independently checks a sample of your
NVivo coding and reviews your thematic map to increase reliability and trustworthiness
(Nowell, Norris, White, & Moules, 2017).
Official guidance and help pages for using NVivo can be found here: http://help-
For general guidance on conducting a qualitative or integrative systematic review please see
the AMSRG guide (Laws, Bruce-Martin, & Winnard, 2020) available in the method section of
our website:
For an example of a qualitative systematic review using the above methods, please see
Laws, Caplan, et al. (2020):
Any data you assigned to
a node will be shown
Free software which can be used to create a thematic map can be found here:
If you do not yet have NVivo, you can find more information here:
Laws, J., Bruce-Martin, C., & Winnard, A. (2020). Aerospace Medicine Systematic Review Group
Qualitative Methods Guide for Space Medicine Focussed Systematic Reviews. Retrieved
Laws, J., Caplan, N., Bruce, C., McGrogan, C., Lindsay, K., Wild, B., . . . Winnard, A. (2020). Systematic
Review of the Technical and Physiological Constraints of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew
Vehicle that Affect the Capability of Astronauts to Exercise Effectively During Spaceflight.
Acta Astronautica.
Nowell, L. S., Norris, J. M., White, D. E., & Moules, N. J. (2017). Thematic analysis: Striving to meet
the trustworthiness criteria. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16(1),
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
This document is intended to guide potential reviewers through the process of conducting a qualitative systematic review. You are advised to use this as a basic overview of the key steps and to supplement (not replace) gold standard qualitative systematic review methods provided by PRISMA and Cochrane. It should be noted that there are times at present when gold standard methods have been adapted for space medicine reviews and these are highlighted in this guide. Overall, this guide will help you navigate a space medicine qualitative review, while conforming as best as possible to gold standards, but without methods becoming prohibitive or unrealistic to apply to the space medicine area. The aim is to help you understand the systematic review process, know tools that can make the process easier, understand the various types of analysis and guide when to use Cochrane or adapted methods. Please cite this tool as: Laws, J.M., Bruce-Martin, C., Winnard, A. (2020) Qualitative Methods Guide for Space Medicine Focussed Systematic Reviews.
Full-text available
As qualitative research becomes increasingly recognized and valued, it is imperative that it is conducted in a rigorous and methodical manner to yield meaningful and useful results. To be accepted as trustworthy, qualitative researchers must demonstrate that data analysis has been conducted in a precise, consistent, and exhaustive manner through recording, systematizing , and disclosing the methods of analysis with enough detail to enable the reader to determine whether the process is credible. Although there are numerous examples of how to conduct qualitative research, few sophisticated tools are available to researchers for conducting a rigorous and relevant thematic analysis. The purpose of this article is to guide researchers using thematic analysis as a research method. We offer personal insights and practical examples, while exploring issues of rigor and trustworthiness. The process of conducting a thematic analysis is illustrated through the presentation of an auditable decision trail, guiding interpreting and representing textual data. We detail our step-by-step approach to exploring the effectiveness of strategic clinical networks in Alberta, Canada, in our mixed methods case study. This article contributes a purposeful approach to thematic analysis in order to systematize and increase the traceability and verification of the analysis.
Background The constraints of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle present challenges to the use of current exercise countermeasures necessary to prevent severe deconditioning of physiological systems during microgravity exposure beyond Low Earth Orbit. The purpose of this qualitative systematic review was to determine the technical constraints of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle which may hinder astronauts’ capabilities to effectively exercise during long distance spaceflight. Methods Databases were searched from the start of their records to December 2018. Included documents were quality assessed with the AMSRG quality scoring tool and Thematic Analysis was used to analyse the included documents to assess technical constraints of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. Results 19 studies were included in the final review. All identified constraints, other than data transmission limitations, were found to ultimately be a result of the volume and upload mass constraints of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. There was a lack of detailed studies and lack of consistency in specifying spacecraft in the literature that limit the conclusions of this review. Conclusion Space agencies are advised to ensure that information on relevant spacecraft constraints is readily available to researchers. This information should be made accessible in an official published document as opposed to disparate and grey literature, and include quantitative information rather than qualitative summaries.