The academic world is replete with complex concepts that often elude precise definition, one of which is 'Teaching Excellence'. The inherent challenges in defining such a multifaceted concept necessitate a thorough and systematic approach to literature review (Skelton, 2005). This article delves into the utilization of NVivo, a qualitative data analysis software, as an effective tool for conducting literature reviews, specifically focusing on the concept of 'Teaching Excellence' in higher education.

The Evolution of NVivo and its Role in Literature Reviews

NVivo, born out of its predecessor NUD*IST, has been a revolutionary tool in qualitative data analysis (Bazeley & Jackson, 2013). Historically, its development marked a transition from manual to digital methods of handling qualitative data. When applied to literature reviews, NVivo demonstrates its prowess in managing, organizing, and analyzing large volumes of textual data (Richards, 2009). This capability is crucial in dissecting complex concepts like 'Teaching Excellence', where diverse perspectives and definitions abound.

Unpacking 'Teaching Excellence'

'Teaching Excellence' is a term that enjoys considerable popularity in educational discourse, yet it remains amorphous due to its varied interpretations (Hutchings & Shulman, 2007). The literature reveals a spectrum of definitions, each colored by different academic disciplines, institutional cultures, and educational philosophies (Skelton, 2005). The challenge lies in synthesizing these diverse viewpoints into a coherent understanding of what constitutes 'Teaching Excellence'.

Methodology: Creating a Digital Library with NVivo

The process of constructing a working definition of 'Teaching Excellence' involved several stages:
  1. Searching and Collecting: The initial phase encompassed gathering relevant literature, ranging from academic articles to policy documents (Giannakis & Bullivant, 2016).
  2. Coding and Categorizing: NVivo's coding capabilities were employed to tag and organize key themes and concepts emerging from the literature (Paulus, Lester, & Dempster, 2014).
  3. Thematic Analysis and Grounded Theory: These methods were pivotal in identifying recurring themes across the literature, thereby facilitating a more structured analysis (Richards, 2009).
  4. Developing a Searchable Library: A digital repository of texts was created, allowing for easy retrieval and cross-referencing of information (Bazeley & Jackson, 2013).

Towards a Model of Teaching Excellence

Through thematic analysis and Grounded Theory, several core themes emerged, offering insights into the multifaceted nature of 'Teaching Excellence'. These themes included pedagogical effectiveness, student engagement, innovation in teaching methods, and reflective practice (Kember & Leung, 2006). The synthesis of these themes aided in forming a more nuanced and comprehensive model of 'Teaching Excellence'.

NVivo's Advantages in Literature Reviews

The use of NVivo in this literature review process offered several advantages:
  • Efficiency in Data Management: NVivo's ability to handle large datasets streamlined the review process (Bazeley & Jackson, 2013).
  • Enhanced Analytical Depth: The software facilitated deeper analytical insights by enabling thematic and conceptual coding (Richards, 2009).
  • Time-saving and Intellectual Rigor: NVivo proved to be a time-efficient tool that did not compromise the intellectual rigor required for a comprehensive literature review (Paulus, Lester, & Dempster, 2014).


NVivo emerges as an invaluable asset in conducting literature reviews, particularly in academic inquiries involving complex and abstract concepts. In the case of defining 'Teaching Excellence', NVivo not only simplified the data management process but also enriched the analytical depth, ultimately contributing to a more robust and nuanced understanding of the concept (Skelton, 2005). This case study underscores the potential of NVivo as a pivotal tool in academic research, offering a blend of efficiency and intellectual precision.

Implications and Future Research

The findings from this study have significant implications for higher education policy and practice, particularly in framing standards and evaluation criteria for teaching excellence (Gibbs, 2010). Future research could explore the application of NVivo in other complex areas of educational research, thereby broadening the scope and depth of academic discourse (Saunders & Rojon, 2014).

Note: This article is based on a detailed analysis of the document "Conducting a Literature Review using NVivo", which serves as a case study in the application of NVivo for literature review in the field of education.


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