Academic Tips and Tricks

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Tips and Tricks 10: Saving and Organising

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:

Get to this options panel by clicking the Office button (the round one in the top left) and selecting ‘word options’ which appears at the bottom of the pane.

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.

Online Storage

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.


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How to use Custom Keyboard Commands for Symbols in Word

This is a blog entry specifically designed to help Linguistics/English language students who need to write in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), students of foreign languages who need to use special characters and any other students, such as those studying maths or science who regularly have to use symbols not from the Roman alphabet.

The standard method of doing this is Word is to use the insert symbols function, found here:

This can be a very lengthy process, especially if the symbols you need appear far apart in the symbol selection box and you keep forgetting where to find them. A much quicker method is to select your own keyboard shortcuts for symbols you use often. Many versions of Word have several memorable keyboard shortcuts automatically programmed in, such as hold ctrl+shift+colon button then click a, e, o, or u to produce that letter with umlauts.

This might be enough help for students of German, but everyone else, read on.

To put in your own keyboard shortcuts (which will only work in Word on your own computer, and can be lost by using programmes such as CCleaner unless they are configured properly) go back to the symbol selection pane shown earlier. For example, if we went to insert this ‘upside-down ‘e’’ (known as schwa) the shortcuts which are automatically assigned are shown below:

However, for me, the number sequence and keyboard shortcut are not very memorable, and I want to use a shortcut containing the letter ‘e’ so that I can remember the symbol it produces. If you click the button that says ‘shortcut key…’ you can enter a new keyboard command. The programme will always show you if the command you have chosen is assigned to another symbol or function. If this symbol or function is one you use often, you should select a new keyboard shortcut. For example, the command I chose to represent the ‘upside-down ‘e’’ character was ctrl+alt+e, which was already assigned to the Euro symbol. As I don’t often use the Euro symbol, and also have a button on my keyboard which produces the Euro symbol anyway, changing this command wasn’t a problem.

You can do this to as many symbols as you like so that eventually, as long as you’ve picked commands you can remember, you should be able to type fluently in another language, in IPA or using algebraic or scientific symbols without ever entering the symbols menu, and therefore saving yourself a lot of time and frustration.

There are however, a few problems with this method. Occasionally, if you try to open a document which uses custom commands on a computer not programmed with those commands it will display error boxes or change symbols. Therefore it is best to print documents from the computer on which they were created. Also, as I mentioned before, programmes like CCleaner (a fantastic programme which keeps your computer running smoothly by clearing away unused files and small bits of programming) can clear away your custom settings. To avoid this, it’s best to not let CCleaner clear up your Office programmes at all by disabling office programmes under the ‘applications’ tab:

I hope this helps! I know it made doing transcriptions in IPA way less problematic for me.