Classify files

When you classify files, you are recording information about them—for example, you could record:

  • Bibliographical information about journal articles or other publications—you can import this data from reference management tools like EndNote or Zotero.
  • The date and location of interviews or focus groups.
  • Any other information about your file materials that is relevant to your project.

Files created by importing bibliographical references, notes from Evernote, web pages and social media datasets are automatically classified as 'Reference' and the relevant attribute values are assigned. You can open the Reference classification sheet to check the details.

When your files have classifying information such as bibliographical information, you can:

  • View all files (and their attribute values) in a particular classification.
  • Run a query over all files with particular characteristics. For example, run a Text Search query across all the Journal Articles published after 1995.
  • Use charts to show the distribution of your files by attribute value. For example, if you are doing a literature review, you could create a chart to show the distribution of Journal Articles by Year.
  • Include bibliographical data when you print or export files.

NOTE  NVivo does not provide reference styling formats—if you need to format your references for publication, we recommend you use NVivo's predefined file classifications to store bibliographical data, and then export your data to a bibliographical tool such as EndNote or Zotero.

Classify files manually in NVivo

You can classify your files directly in NVivo—for example, you could classify a file as a Journal Article and specify the attributes for author and year. Before you do this, you need to add (or create) the classifications that you want to use. NVivo provides predefined bibliographical classifications—if you use these classifications, then you can export your data to reference management applications when you are ready to write up your findings.

Once you have added or created the classifications, then you can classify your files and set the attribute values.

To classify files:

  1. In the List View, select the file/s you want to classify.
  2. On the Home tab, in the Item menu, click Classification and in the File Classification section select the classification to apply to the files, or New File Classification to create a new classification.


  • You must add at least one classification to your project before you can classify files. Create file classifications
  • If you want to add bibliographical information in NVivo and export it when you are ready to write up your findings, you should use NVivo's predefined file classifications—these are compatible with reference management tools like EndNote.
  • You can also set the classification for a selected file on the Attribute Values tab in the File Properties dialog box.
  • The selected files are assigned to the classification, but you need to set the attribute values for each file.

Set the attribute values for a file

To set the attribute values for a file that has already been classified:

  1. In the List View, select the file.
  2. On the Home tab click Item > [Item type] Properties.
  3. Open the Attribute Values tab.
  4. Click the arrow in the Value field to select a value for each attribute. To add a new value, click in the Value field and type.

NOTE  You can also set the attribute values for a classified file via the classification sheet.

Set attribute values using a classification sheet

The classification sheet lists all the files in a classification and shows the attribute values set for each file.

For example, you could open the Journal Article classification sheet to see all the files that represent journal articles along with their classifying information.

You can enter or update file attribute values via the classification sheet.

Classify files by importing classification sheets

If you have gathered information about your files outside of NVivo—and the information is in a structured text file or a spreadsheet—you can import it into NVivo. For example, if you conducted a series of video interviews and have recorded the interview location, interview date and interviewee name for each interview in a spreadsheet, you can import the videos into NVivo, and then import the classifying information.

Classification sheets

Change the classification of a file

CAUTION  Changing the classification of a file may result in the loss of data if you have recorded classifying information about the file. Attribute values are only retained when the new classification has the same attributes (matched by name and data type). For example, if you have used the predefined classification Journal Article to classify a file and then change the classification to Government Document, the values for Author, Year and Title are common to both classifications and are retained but the value for Journal is lost.

To change the classification of a file:

  1. In the List View, select the file.
  2. On the Home tab, click Item > [Item type] Properties.