A theme node is a collection of references from your files about a specific theme, topic, concept, idea or experience. These nodes could be descriptive or analytical. You might already know the topics you are exploring when you begin your research, or you might identify themes that emerge as you code your files.
You gather references to the theme by coding files at the node. For example, while exploring your files (documents, datasets, pictures, video or audio) you could code any content related to 'illegal fishing practices' at the node illegal fishing. Then when you open the node (by double-clicking it in List View) you can see all the references in one place.
Create nodes for the themes in your data
- Do you already know which themes or topics you will be exploring? You can create a node structure before you begin coding, and easily add any nodes that emerge as you work through your files. Create theme nodes manually
- If you don't already know what themes might emerge from your project you can work 'up' from your files, creating nodes as you go. Coding techniques
- You can also use queries to find and code content that relates to a particular theme at a new node. For example, you could run a Text Search query to find all references to development and automatically code this content at a new node. Create theme nodes automatically
If you have tightly structured files, then you can use NVivo's 'auto coding' features to do 'broad brush coding'. For example, you could gather all responses to a particular interview question at a node. You can then open these nodes and explore what people have said in response to a particular question, 'coding on' to create more nodes as your themes emerge. Create theme nodes automatically
Create node hierarchies
You can organize nodes in hierarchies (parents and children) to organize your material and consolidate your thinking.
For example, you might organize themes nodes (related to water quality) like this:
- Perceived causes of poor water quality
- Industrial waste
- domestic sewage
- agricultural runoff
If there is no logical connection between your nodes (or perhaps these connections are not yet apparent) you can just add nodes at the top level of the hierarchy.
Another way to create a node hierarchy is to build a mind map first, then automatically create your nodes from the map.
Keeping your nodes organized can help you to see connections, clarify your thinking and code efficiently—for more ideas about creating a manageable node structure, refer to Code files and manage nodes (Build an efficient node hierarchy).
NOTE Organizing your nodes into hierarchies won't automatically include content coded at the child node in the parent node. To do this, you need to turn on aggregation.
For example, you could create:
A chart to see which files are most or least coded at a node—for example, the node Landscape has more coding references from the file Helen than from any other file.
- A hierarchy chart to compare the amount of coding at your nodes—do some nodes contain more coding references than others?
- A cluster analysis diagram to see your nodes grouped by similar words.
- An explore diagram to see all of the project items connected to a node, and step through your project data to explore the connections between items.
When you have created nodes and coded content you can use these attributes to gather the data or make comparisons.
For example, you could:
- Use a Coding query to see where content coded at coral bleaching is near content coded at rising sea temperatures.
- Use a Matrix coding query to compare how the terms sustainable, conservation and global warming used by different lobby groups.
- Use a Group query to see which interviews have been coded at wind power and solar power.
- Run a Coding query to gather all the material on water quality and create a new node based on the results. Then run a Word Frequency query on this new node to check for commonly used terms.
- Use a Crosstab to compare what women of different age groups have to say about environmental change.