About sources

In NVivo, 'sources' is the collective term for your research materials—anything from 'primary' materials such as documents, videos or survey results, to memos that record your ideas and insights.

You can import or create sources at any stage of your project.

In this topic


Understand source folders

When you create a new project, you will see ready-made folders for your sources:


You can store your primary research materials in the Internals or Externals folders:

You can store secondary research materials in the Memos and Framework Matrices folders:

You can create your own folders under each of these high-level folders. For example, under Internals you could create separate folders for Stage 1 Interviews and Stage 2 Interviews. You cannot delete or rename the high-level folders (or create your own folders at this level).

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What kind of sources can I import?

You can add sources at any stage of your project. You can create documents and memos directly in NVivo (and use standard  formatting tools to apply fonts, indents and paragraph styles) or you can import sources in the following formats:


Source Formats

Documents and Memos

  • Microsoft Word Document (.docx)

  • Microsoft Word 97 - 2003 Document (.doc)

  • Rich text (.rtf)

  • Plain text (.txt)


  • PDF (.pdf)


  • Microsoft Excel workbook (.xlsx)

  • Microsoft Excel 97 - 2003 workbook (.xls)

  • A database table or view—for example, a Microsoft Access or SQL Server database table

  • Comma or tab-delimited text files (.txt)


  • MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (.mp3)

  • Microsoft Windows Media  (wma, wav)


  • MPEG file formats (mpg, mpeg, mpe, mp4)

  • Windows Media ( avi, wmv,)

  • QuickTime (mov, qt)


  • Windows bitmap (bmp)

  • Graphic Interchange Format (.gif)

  • Joint Photographics Expert Group (jpg, jpeg)

  • Tagged Image File Format (tif, tiff)

If you have digital content in other formats that you cannot directly import into NVivo (for example, Microsoft PowerPoint), you may be able to save or export the content to a PDF file which you can import into NVivo as a PDF source. If this is not possible, then you can create an 'external' to represent the source in NVivo. Refer to Create externals for sources you cannot import.

Framework matrices are created within NVivo or can be imported from other NVivo projects.

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Preparing sources for import

As long as a source is in a supported format, you can import it into NVivo—so there is no need to 'prepare' your sources for import. However, to make the most of NVivo you may want to consider the following:

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Importing or creating sources

You can import sources into the Internals or Memos folder (or folders you have created under these).

When importing a source, you can click the More button to see more import options, and choose to:

You can also create new documents, memos and externals directly in NVivo. For example, you could create a memo to capture your observations or a document that outlines the objectives of your project.

If you use EndNote or RefWorks to search online databases for journal articles, you may have gathered some of your source materials as file attachments. You can import the files and their associated reference information—refer to Exchange data between NVivo and reference management tools for more information.

Framework matrices are created within NVivo (or imported from another NVivo project)—refer to About framework matrices for more information.

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Can I import a lot of sources at once?

You can select multiple document, PDF, picture, audio and video files, and import them into NVivo at the same time (datasets must be imported one-by-one).

When you import more than one source:

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Record bibliographical data about your sources

You can record bibiographical details about your sources. For example, you could classify a PDF source as a Journal Article and specify the author and year. To record this descriptive information you can:

You can classify internals, externals and memos. Framework matrices cannot be classified.

Refer to About classifying sources for more information.

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What can I do in a source?

When you import or create a source, you can analyze content in the following ways:

Framework matrices are different from other types of sources—you cannot code, annotate or create 'see also' links in framework matrices. Refer to About framework matrices for more information.

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Switch to edit mode to change the content of a source

You can switch to edit mode when:

When you work with a source in edit mode you can:


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