Inserting Consistent Line Numbers in NVIVO

In NVIVO, documents and excerpts can be exported with paragraph numbers. However, these paragraph numbers are not visually represented in the software itself. If the printout has detailed paragraph numbers, and you refer to these numbers in your analysis, you will not find the same paragraph enumeration in NVIVO. This inconsistency in enumeration is a major drawback for hybrid paper-software workflows. 

Another issue is that NVIVO does not support line numbers – which are crucial for the detailed analysis of language. I asked for help concerning these issues on the NVIVO user forum, and I learned about a workaround. The following screenshots illustrate what you need to do in order to import data with pre-inserted paragraph or line numbers.

The data we want to import into NVIVO with line/paragraph numbers.

Inserting Paragraph Numbers

Adding paragraph numbers is pretty straightforward. Open your text in a word processor (I used Word 2010 here). Simply highlight all of your data (CTRL-A), and add list numbering to it.

Add numbering to your text here.

Save this file, and import it into NVIVO (make sure to close the file in word, or you won’t be able to import it).

Inserting Line Numbers

Inserting line numbers is a more tricky. You basically break up your data into small one-line paragraphs, and then add the list numbering to it (just as above).

So, in order to create line numbers, you first need to make the margins of the page more narrow – otherwise your lines might be displayed as two lines in NVIVO, as shown below:

If you do not shorten the line length, the line numbering won’t be ‘line’ numbering in NVIVO.

STEP 1: Change margins

I suggest to go at least for a side margin of 2.5 to 3 inches each. If you want to break up your data into segments/stanzas, this would be a good point to do this.

In Word, change the margins on the side in the ‘Page Layout’ tab, then go to ‘Custom Margins’.

Now, your text should look something like this:

STEP 2: Save as a .txt file

In order to insert a paragraph at each end of a line, you need to save the file as a .txt file (File -> Save As -> select ‘Plain Text’ in the dropdown menu). This will open the following dialogue:

Make sure that you check the box that says “Insert line breaks”. Also, you should note that saving data as plain text gets rid of any tables, images, formatting, and special characters. This means that this technique is really only suitable for certain kinds of data. At the same time, saving data as a .txt is a great way of cleaning up messy data!

STEP 3: Open in word and add numbering

Now, you need to open the newly created plain text file in word (right-click on the file -> Open with -> Word).

Highlight all of your data (CTRL-A), and add list numbering to it. Now, save the file again as a word file (otherwise the list numbering would not be retained), and your data is ready for import into NVIVO!

This post was made possible thanks to the support of MERIT Library, School of Education, UW-Madison. It was first posted here.