Qualitative Data Analysis Software (nVivo, Atlas.TI, and more)

Overview and resource links for Qualitative Data Analysis Software (QDAS), uses and how to choose, focusing on QDAS supported by JHU Data Services: nVivo and Atlas.TI, with resource and training links to these and other QDA Software

JHU Data Services

Contact us, JHU Data Services for assistance with access to nVivo and ATLAS.ti at the Data Services offices on A level, JHU Eisenhower Library.

Visit our website for more info and our upcoming training workshops!

NVivo Overview

NVivo qualitative data analysis software is now published by Luminvero.  It was originally one of the flagship QDAS programs supporting most of the features and functions listed in the QDAS Overview Section. It is adequate for focused techniques but is oriented toward serving as a core of a qualitative project's data analysis and management.

All current version is NVivo 14, for PC and Mac versions.  NVivo Collaboration is for collaborative data analysis. Data is stored on QSR's cloud. (QSR's cloud storage has security features, but inquire with JH IT Risk office before storing JHM data with PHI.  Consider the installation on JHU SAFE Desktop instead.)

Accessing NVivo at the MSEL Library

Nvivo Pro 12 is installed on PCs in the Data Services Computer Lab on A-Level of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the Homewood campus.  Academic and Student pricing is available for purchasing nVivo. (Note that projects from current Nvivo 1.6 are not compatible with Nvivo Pro 12.)

Accessing NVivo on SAFE Desktop (free for JHU affiliates with SAFE desktop accounts.)

nVivo can also be accessed on JHU's SAFE Desktop platform. SAFE Desktop accounts are available to JHU faculty and research staff, who can sponsor student access to projects. (Faculty sponsors use the request form to create project folders and add students or other JHU affiliates). The installed version is for single-user access to projects, rather than the nVivo Collaborative Cloud NOTE: To open nVivo on SAFE Desktop, users should launch the program from the shortcut in the "Safe Applications" folder on the desktop.  That shortcut runs a script that authorizes the software.  After authorizing, the user should not login to NVivo with the “Account” Log In button, nor use “Collaboration Cloud” in the right menu. Rather, open NVivo projects via the “Open Other Project” selection. SAFE Desktop is the most secure solution for human subject data with personal or health identifiers. See more details about collaborative use of NVivo on SAFE Desktop [here]

NVivo Guides & Tutorials

Collaboration and Data Management

Teamwork and collaboration: Shared and simultaneous access to an NVivo project is easiest with NVivo's collaboration cloud. Sharing access from individual licenses, such as on JHU's SAFE Desktop platform, requires more coordination among team members. In both cases, however, developing operating procedures around shared access is crucial. Protocols include coding naming conventions, initials to distinguish each other's work, and logging major version changes or other project milestones. Here is QSR's page on Teamwork and video on improving research team collaboration. And another great set of videos from Duke University on preparing for teamwork. If working on separate copies of files, they must be merged carefully using import procedures.

To collaborate on projects in SAFE Desktop, users should only launch the program from the shortcut in the "Safe Applications" folder on the desktop. (More info on creating a SAFE Desktop account here.) That shortcut runs a script that authorizes the software.  After that, users should not login to NVivo with the “Account” Log In button, nor use “Collaboration Cloud” in the right menu. Rather, collaborate by working on the same NVivo project via the “Open Other Project” selection. The project should be stored in a common Safe Desktop Project folder. Only one person at a time can work on a project.  There could be an issue if two users are working on the same file at the same time. To get around this issue you can manage a collaborative project manually, creating a project master file and giving a copy to each team member. They work on their copies independently then return them for you to merge into the master file. NVivo has a number of features to facilitate this method. 

Storage & Backup: NVivo maintains associated text and A/V file types associated within a project bundle, appearing as a single file on the PC. Bundles kept on cloud storage, such as OneDrive, or even a network server, may be prone to corruption from file syncing and remote access. [more info] Projects should be accessed from a single desktop or laptop.  This can make collaborative access to files challenging, so consider NVivo Teams for such cases.  It is important to back up the project file ideally to another drive or cloud storage. Cloud storage is fine for backup copies, as long as it is not the accessed version [more info].

Data Security: NVivo has password protection but the program does not encrypt the data itself. Project data is stored on the user's computer by default. the company does not provide sufficient information about whether security for use of the desktop version is sufficient for human subject personal and health identifiers. Source audio/video and transcripts stored with a project on your workstation are not encrypted. For sensitive source data with personal or health identifiers, consider storing and accessing projects with NVivo on JHU's SAFE Desktop platform, which can be access freely by JHU faculty, staff, and approved students. If working collaboratively on a dataset, manage the shared password securely. Consider password management software such as LastPass or 1Password.  NVivo Teams does provide better encryption and access controls for data stored on QSR's cloud. JHU's IT Risk office has not evaluated that security (to our knowledge), so use for PHI and HIPAA covered data may require their review before investing in their collaboration product.

Exporting and importing projects: NVivo can import projects from ATLAS.ti. NVivo can export the REFI-QDA Standard format (.qdpx) which allows importing projects to ATLAS.ti and certain other QDA software. Some project items are not exported. [More info from QSR]

List of known issues with NVivo for PC formats (from QSR)

Converting Projects Between Windows and Mac

NCapture  is a free web-browser extension for Chrome that enables you to gather web content to import into NVivo.