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Using Zotero and NVivo for Literature Reviews: Workshop Steps

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Using Zotero and NVivo for Literature Reviews Workshop

Description: The goal of this workshop is to introduce participants to the features of Zotero and NVivo that can assist with the process of conducting a literature review for a class paper, article, thesis or dissertation.


Outcomes: Participants will be able to:

  • Explore a timeline of sources using Zotero
  • Import their Zotero bibliography into NVivo
  • Classify their sources and record information about them
  • Code sources by themes, topics, and authors
  • Perform text queries to find and code keywords in your sources
  • Perform matrix coding queries to find content and analyze relationship between topics
  • Explore visualizations that represent your ideas and findings.


NVivo is installed on the computers in Jones 105.  Participants should be familiar on a basic level with both Zotero and NVivo.

(1) Take Workshops, (2) Pass Quizzes, (3) Become a Data Scholar

Interested in becoming a Data Scholar?


Takes only six workshops!

Pick any Two Categories Below, Take at Least Two Workshops from Each of Those Categories: (Total of 4)


  • Data Visualization
  • Text Data Mining
  • Python Data Scripting
Pick any One Category Below, Take at Least Two Workshops from That Category:


(Total of 2)

  • Research Data Management
  • Finding Secondary Data


* Workshops are offered every semester. No need to fit all 6 in one semester. Become a Data Scholar at your own pace.

* Becoming a Data Scholar is not mandatory. Take any workshop you like.

1. Import the .RIS file of resources (articles, book chapters, etc.) for your literature review into Zotero

2. Explore Searches/Advanced Searching

1. Create Timeline (from the tools menu on Zotero)

2. Explore the timeline, filters, and highlights

Make sure to name by "Author and Year"

  • Run a word frequency query.
  • Select a word to explore with a further query
  • View the word tree and hand code a few items

Coding is a fundamental task in most qualitative projects. 'Coding' your files is a way of gathering all the references to a specific topic, theme, person or other entity. You can code all types of files and bring the references together in a single 'node.

  • We will first autocode all files and explore the benefits and drawbacks.
  • We will also hand code a few files.  
    • Explore nodes, child nodes, aggregate coding, etc

Matrix Coding queries enable you to see coding intersections between two lists of items.

You can use Matrix Coding queries to ask a wide range of questions about patterns in your coded data and gain access to the content that shows those patterns.

In NVivo, cases represent the 'units of analysis' in your research study—for example, the people you interviewed or the communities you studied. Your project might have cases for people, places, organizations, events or other entities that you want to analyze and compare.

Cases are like containers that hold all the information related to a person, place or other unit of analysis.

In Case Classifications, we will create classifications for Authors and Articles.

We will create cases for each author.

We will also create cases for each article.  

It's a little easier to do that automatically, by selecting them all and creating them as cases, assigning them the attribute "article."

A relationship is a special type of code that defines the connection between two project items.

Relationships record statements or hunches you have developed about how items in your project are connected. You might create relationships to show how your research participants are related or how concepts are related.

When adding a relationship type you can define one of the following directions:

  • One way (Anna 'employs' Ken) An arrow
  • Associative (Anna 'knows' Ken) A line, that is without arrowheads
  • Symmetrical (Anna 'works with' Ken) A double-headed arrow

Relationships are stored in the Relationships folder under the Codes group in Navigation View. Relationship types are also stored here.

Some common relationship types that might be useful for exploring the connections in your literature review are below:

You can do some ahead of time, but you can also code them as you read.

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