10 no-nonsense tips for the technologically challenged student


The world is hard enough to navigate when you know about automated tools. It is a lot harder when you live life in manual mode. Nobody’s saying you can’t do it manually, but if the only reason you’re doing that is that you don’t know how to use Word features to help you or you’ve never googled how to do something, you, my friend, need a few tech pointers. Really basic pointers, but nonetheless helpful if you don’t know about them, so bear with me.

Don’t live life in manual mode

  1. Word can double space your essay for you. Click on the ‘Line and Paragraph Spacing’ symbol, set to 2.0. Done.
  2. Word can alphabetise your bibliography for you. Select all of the text in your bibliography, then click on the ‘Sort’ symbol (the one with a blue A, a black Z and a downward facing arrow). Done.
  3. Still on the bibliography: Word can do hanging indents for you. Select the text you need, go on Paragraph settings. In the ‘Indentation’ section, you will see ‘Special’ – in the drop-down list underneath, select ‘Hanging’. Done.
  4. If you struggle with referencing, look up referencing software or websites online, depending on what kind of referencing system you’re using. Ask your course friends what they’re using.
  5. If you’re looking up a specific quote, or two words that form the name of a concept together, like “negative dialectic,” where the two words as separate entities have a different meaning than the United phrase, put them in double speech marks when looking them up on search engines. That’ll tell the search engine you want it to find examples of the two (or more) words used together as a single phrase or quote rather than randomly and individually occurring in a document.
  6. When you want to look up the definition of a word, type ‘define: SAIDWORD’ into Google. It only saves you a single click, but they add up. The definition comes with suggested synonyms and a drop-down etymology option.
  7. To tell Google or any other search engine to exclude results that contain a certain word, type in your ordinary search terms and include the word you want to use as an exclusion filter after a minus, e.g. psychoanalysis -Freud. This helps you narrow your search results.
  8. For the love of God, don’t manually search for specific words or terms in a document or website. Ctrl+F on Windows or Command+F on a Mac will give you a life-saving search bar. Use it. Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for reading the text. Only use when you’ve already read it and are now looking to find a specific section again.
  9. If searching up two terms, either of which you’d be happy with, and which don’t operate together, type OR between them in the search bar. That tells the search engine you’re happy to receive results about either, and results don’t need to include both words, so ideally use this when searching up themes, and use two synonyms, e.g. Shakespeare or bard.
  10. When something seems too arduous, chances are there’s a faster way to do it. So, tip number 10? Look it up, ask around, suffer not in silence.

Image by Marisa_Sias on Pixabay

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