About relationships

This feature is available in NVivo Pro and Plus editions. Learn more


A relationship is a special type of node that defines the connection between two project items. You can create relationships in your project and then gather evidence about the relationship from your source material.

If you are using NVivo Plus, you can visualize and analyze relationship connections in sociograms—refer to About social network analysis for more information.

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Understand relationships

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—for example, Anna 'employs' Ken; or how concepts are related—for example, industrial waste 'impacts' water quality. You could code content at the individual nodes—for example, industrial waste and water quality, as well at the relationship—for example, industrial waste 'impacts' water quality.

Relationships are made up of three parts: "from", "to" and the "type" of relationship. You can create relationships using sources, nodes, cases and sets—and the "from" and "to" parts don't have to be the same type of project item.

To record relationships between your project items, you first need to create a relationship that connects them. You choose the project items that are involved in the relationship and select a relationship type. Relationship types indicate the nature of the relationships. You can use the system-created 'Associated' relationship type or create your own relationship type.

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

  • One way (Anna 'employs' Ken)

  • Associative (Anna 'knows' Ken)

  • Symmetrical (Anna 'works with' Ken)

Relationships are stored in the Relationships folder under the Nodes group in Navigation View. Relationship types are stored in the Relationship types folder under the Classifications group in Navigation View.

Just like other types of nodes, you can visually present relationships by showing them on Comparison diagrams and Explore diagrams.

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Coding at relationships

Like ordinary nodes, you can code content at 'relationships'. As you work through your sources you can code information at relationships that supports or demonstrates the relationship. For example, you can code text that is evidence of marine dumping affecting water quality at the marine dumping 'impacts' water quality relationship. You can then open the relationship node and explore the evidence you have gathered.

NOTE  When you create a relationship between two nodes, the coding at individual nodes does not become part of the relationship's coding.

For more information on coding, refer to About coding.

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Charts provide a way that you can visually represent the sources and attributes coded at a relationship. You can use charts:

  • To see which sources provide evidence of a relationship—for example, who are the main survey participants who have mentioned the relationship wetlands protect water quality?
  • To view demographic information about people or entities that have referred to a relationship—for example, females aged 50-59 are most likely to express the opinion that fossil fuels cause global warming.

Refer to About charts for more information.

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This feature is available in NVivo Plus.

Sociograms let you visualize and analyze relationships between cases. Refer to About social network analysis for more information.

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