Improving NVivo with AutoHotKey: Faster Attribute Values Input Script

The core component of the fieldwork for the Welfare Conditionality research project is an on-going three waves of qualitative interviews with 481 welfare service users sampled across nine different policy area. In order to assist with descriptive statistics and finding subgroups amongst our sample, we have a set of key attributes such as the participant’s age, household, benefits received,  etc. Furthermore, we have additional attributes specific to each policy area. Due to this, we have around fifty attributes in total that need values entered for them after each interview. By default NVivo offers three main ways to add attribute values, none of which are ideal for working with this amount of data entry.

The primary means of adding attribute data in NVivo is through the Attribute Values tab of the Node Properties dialogue window. This presents a list of drop-down menus for each of the attributes and can be laborious to work through. Similar to this is opening the Classification sheet and working along the row for the participant. In addition to having the same problem of developing RSI as the first method, this method has become nearly impossible to use as our project file has grown larger. Any change to an attribute value with the Welfare Service User classification sheet open now results in a 1-2 minute wait for NVivo to process the change. The third option is to save attribute data to an excel sheet and import it into NVivo. This introduces its own problems with ensuring values are typed correctly or setting up the excel sheet with acceptable values defined for each column, and still does not make any real time savings with the data entry process.

The above video is an example of using a script I wrote in AutoHotKey in order to provide another alternative. The script translates the keypresses on the numpad into a series of keypresses that select the desired attribute value and then moves focus to the next attribute. For example, if the second value for the selected attribute is ‘Unemployed’, pressing ‘2’ on the numpad would set the value to ‘Unemployed’ and move the focus to the next attribute so the user can press another numpad key to input the next attribute value. Alongside using post-interview checklists that have the number written next to each value, it greatly reduces the amount of time required for data entry. Further details about the script and how to use it are include below. The script file and an executable version of it are available from a Github repository.

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