About queries

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What are queries?

Queries provide a flexible way to gather and explore subsets of your data. In NVivo, you can create queries to

You can create the following queries in NVivo:

Query Description Examples
Text Search Find all occurrences of a word, phrase, or concept.
  • Find and analyze all occurrences of the phrase alternative energy.
  • Find the words policy or legislation and code them at the new node government.
  • Find content where the terms rising sea level and property occur within 20 words of each other.
  • Find all references to river, and find similar words such as stream, Nile, watercourse.
Word Frequency Find the most frequently occurring words or concepts.
  • Look for the most frequently occurring words in a set of interviews.
  • Find the most frequently occurring themes in a document—where similar words are grouped into concepts.
Coding Find all content coded at selected nodes, a combination of nodes, or a combination of nodes and attributes.
  • What do property developers say about rising sea levels?—run a query to gather content that has been coded at rising sea levels and at nodes with the attribute property developer.
  • Show me where content coded at coral bleaching is near content coded at rising sea temperatures.
Matrix Coding

Find a combination of items (usually nodes and attributes) and display the results in a table.

  • Compare what small, medium and large businesses say about alternative energy.
  • Compare how the terms sustainable, conservation and global warming  are used by different lobby groups—run text searches and create a node for each term and then use the nodes in the matrix criteria.
Compound Use a compound query to
  • Combine a text search query with a coding query
  • Search for two words that occur in the same paragraph (or other specified context).
  • Find content where the term rising sea temperature precedes content coded at coral.
  • Find content where the words habitat and sustainable occur in the same paragraph.
Coding comparison

Compare coding done by two users or two groups of users.

This query measures the 'inter-rater reliability' or the degree of agreement for coding done by selected users.

Compare coding between users in different locations or from different disciplines.


Find items that are associated in a particular way with other items. The items could be associated by coding, attribute value, relationships, 'see also' links or models.

  • Find the nodes that I've used to code Interview with Franz and Interview with Vikram.
  • Which interviews have been coded at wind power and solar power?
  • Which sources or nodes have a certain set of attribute values—for example, who are the survey participants from Riverside and Mountain View?
  • List any 'relationship' nodes that include water purification.
  • Find any models that include homeowners or farmers.

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How do I set up a query?

NVivo queries offer a flexible approach to exploring your data—you can create quick and simple queries to get a sense of what is happening in the data or you can build detailed queries for a more focussed perspective.

The best way to become familiar is to run some simple queries and preview the results. As you grow in confidence you can look at building more complex criteria and storing your results in nodes and sets.

When you create any type of query (on the Explore tab, in the Queries group, click New Query), you are prompted to define the query properties:


1 Use the Criteria tab to define the criteria for the query—what are you looking for and where do you want to look?

2 Use the Query Options tab to determine how the query results are displayed and stored—do you want a temporary preview of results or do you want to save them in a node or a set?  

3 (Optional) Select the Add To Project check box to save the query—this means you can easily run the query again. By default, queries are stored in the Queries folder. You can create your own folders for queries and organize them to suit your project.

4 Use the General tab to name and describe the query if you choose to save it—this tab is only available when you select the Add to Project check box.

5 Click to run the query—the results are displayed in Detail View according to the query options you defined.

NOTE The Query Options tab is not available for Word Frequency or Coding Comparison queries. While you cannot save Word Frequency query results, you can save the matches for an individual word as a node—refer to Run a Word Frequency query for more information.

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Create a query with dynamic scope

When you create a query that you want to run at regular intervals—for example, a coding query to see how your coding is evolving—it is a good idea to use a Search Folder as the scope of your query.

Search Folders contain items that currently meet specified search criteria—as your project changes, the items in the Search Folder change too.

For example, you could create a Search Folder that contains only sources in the source classification Interview, and use the Search Folder as the scope of a coding query. Every time you run the query, only sources that meet the Search Folder's criteria (have the classification Interview) will be in scope.

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 Understand query results

When you run a query, the results are displayed in Detail View.

By default, the results are displayed as a temporary preview—when you close Detail View the results are lost. You can run the query again or you can choose to save the results in a node or a set.  

You can choose to save the results when you set up the query or you can save them while they are displayed in Detail View.

NOTE If you delete or update project items that are included in saved query results—the results are updated to reflect the changes. If you add new items that match the query criteria they are not automatically included in the results. To make sure that your query results accurately reflect the current state of your project, it is best to run the query again.

Refer to Manage query results for more information.

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