Naming documents in NVivo

There are a number of considerations when developing a naming scheme for documents in NVivo. The name of the folder is usually displayed as part of the name so it is worth considering the use and names of folders at the same time. Naming affects:

order of references when browsing a node;

context needed when reading references; and

capability to select and search for documents.

Browsing a node
When browsing a node, references are always listed according to the alphabetical order of document names with references within a document in order that they appear in the document. If folders are used, the folder name forms part of the name.

This is probably the most significant consideration for document naming so it is worth considering the order in which you would like to read the references. In the example illustrated, documents are grouped according to location and then within location by gender.


A particular example, is longitudinal research when interviews are repeated at regular intervals. In this case, if it is important to see how an individual's views change through time then the date of the interview will be the last part of the name (eg John-2008-10-30, John-2009-01-28). If it is important to compare what different individuals said at the same time, then the date will be the first part of the document name (eg 2008-10-30-John, 2009-01-28-John). Writing dates in the American format of yyyy-month-day as illustrated, will ensure chronological ordering.

Context when reading references
When browsing a node, the document name is usually visible and so it came be helpful to include information about the interview in the document name. In the example illustrated above, the document name contains F or M to indicate the gender of the respondent.
As document names are visible in nodes, it is worth ensuring that document names preserve anonymity where this is important.

Selecting & searching documents
When running queries, if you want to limit the query to a subset of your documents then you can either:

use a folder;

select the documents from the select tool; or

use a set.

The easiest way to select documents is by folder, so if you know you will regularly want to select a group of documents and you can put them in a folder, this will make selection easy. The most obvious example when this is useful is when you are studying a limited number of cases and you want to do within case and cross case analysis. In the example, illustrated above, it would have been possible to put the documents in three folders (London, North, South). One of the drawbacks of using folders is that it makes documents slightly less obvious and it is a good idea to keep the location in the name as it makes case naming easier.

If document names contain the key characteristics of respondents (as in the example above), it makes it easy to select documents according to characteristic. For example, it would be simple to select all the Men in this example.

Sets allow you to group documents together for querying and analysis. A document can be in many sets, for example London-F-10227 could be in the London set and the Female set. An easy way to select documents to create a set is to use the FIND tool. This works well if you can search on parts of the document name. For example, you could search for F to find all the women as illustrated.


Finally, when creating naming conventions it is easier to separate the parts of the name using '-' rather than a space or a dot. This makes the names acceptable to Windows so you can use the same names for documents before import, you can easily read the name and when searching for a part of a name you can include the '-' to make the search unique (eg searching for -M rather than M will make sure that you do not find any Midlands documents).