Proxy documents in NVivo
Author of this page: Graham R. Gibbs
Affiliation: University of Huddersfield
Date written: 14th Nov. 2005
Most documents you import into a project will be word processed so that the full text is available in the program. However, sometimes it is not possible to get the full text or it is too expensive. An example of the first might be a video recording of a documentary, where you want to be able to refer not only to the speech but also the images shown. An example of the latter might be a long government report, too long to make it worth transcribing or OCRing. In these cases you can still have a document in the project, called a proxy document, that represents these ‘external’ documents, but its contents will only refer in outline to the contents of the real thing. You can code the outline contents to nodes just as if you had coded the actual section in the original document. You can also write notes in the outline and link it to memos, DataBites and annotations. In fact, just about the only thing you can’t do is display the original text in NVivo (and of course search it). This means that these documents can be well integrated into your analysis. You can set up the contents of the proxy document as you create a document for the project. In this case the New Document Wizard will prompt you for some content if you want it. This might be just a list of the paragraphs of the original. This list will then become the proxy document to the actual external one. In many cases though, it makes better sense to prepare a template for the proxy document beforehand. In the case of the Job Search project there is a proxy template document. This is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Example proxy template.
The first paragraph is the title and was put into the ‘Title’ style. Subsequent paragraphs were put into a style reflecting the level of section. Top level was put into ‘Heading 1’ style, the next down, ‘Heading 2’. (This formatting can also be done in the Document Browser in NVivo.) This makes the document suitable for automatic section formatting.
To import a proxy document to a project.
- On the Project Pad click on the Documents tab and then the Make a Project Document button, or
- From the Project Pad menu bar click Documents:New Document Wizard.
- Choose a Proxy Document for non-file data. Click on Next>.
- Fill in the details in the next form. See Figure 2. The Browse Current Document Name button is so you can check you are not using a name that is already in use. Click on Next>.
- Click on the Use a file template option. Click on Browse to choose the template file.
- Choose the template file from the File Selector Dialog.
- Click on Finish.
Figure 2. The New Document Wizard for a proxy document.
You can code and automatically code a proxy document formatted as in Figure 1. see Automatic coding.