One of the most important things to do when you begin producing work for university is to make sure it’s properly saved and organised. It may sound obvious – but during my time both studying and working in a university I have lost count of the number of students crying over lost work due to computer malfunctions.
First, let’s talk about saving your work.
Firstly, make sure you save your work as your working – not just at the end of each session. Depending on which programs you’re using, this might just be a case of setting up an autosave, or you may have to remember to save at regular intervals. In most PC programs (I don’t know about Mac), pressing the CTRL key and S key simultaneously will save your work.
If you are using MS Word, you can change the autosave time here:
If you’re using a Uni computer, then the autosave option is less useful, here you should get into the habit of pressing the quick save keys as you type (CTRL+S).
You should also always back up your work, whatever computer you’re using. This is essential, lack of backups + computer failure = hysterical crying students.
You have two options for backing up – making hard copies on a physical storage device, or using some form of web-based cloud computing. These both have advantages and disadvantages:
Hard Copies (USB pen drive, DVD, External Hard drive etc.)
Pros: you can work straight from a external hard drive or USB pen drive and it’s very quick to save to them, these can take a lot of data, using something like Windows 7 means backing up is quick, as the computer knows which documents you’ve edited and which you haven’t. Accessable anywhere – if you remember to bring it with you
Cons: You can break or lose any of these storage devices – of course, if you also have a copy of the document on your computer, this shouldn’t be a problem. The only time you might feasibly lose both your hard storage and computer copy is through a disaster like theft, flood or fire if the computer and external storage device are stored together.
Pros: accessable anywhere with internet access, unlosable, The easiest method is emailing documents to yourself; this is relatively fast and simple
Cons: some sites have an upload limit and will then charge for storage, uploading documents can take a long time. It is highly unlikely, but feasible that your data could be hacked.
So now you’ve got your data saved you ought to have it organised. This is important for everyone. Admittedly, if you are on a writing-based subject (Psychology, History, English, etc.) you can fairly easily ferret out a document from anywhere in your computer using the search feature, provided you can remember some of the content of that document. For image-based subjects (Graphics, Architecture, Fashion Design) there is no such quick fix, so having documents clearly labeled and in module-specific folders is a must.
Below you can see my Uni folder system with various subdivisions
A good system is having a folder for each year of university, each containing module-specific folders and having those subdivided again (for example, by lecturer) if that makes sense.
Please don’t neglect these very easy measures! They can make the difference between meeting a deadline and being capped at 40% for not being able to hand work in on time.