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Postgraduate support

Using Microsoft Word

Working with long documents

When working on a major research report or thesis there are a number of features within Microsoft Word which you will need to be aware of.  All of these will help save you time and ensure that your documents are created in an efficient and professional way.  Topics you will need to be aware of include:

Using heading styles, table of contents, footnotes, indexing,headers and footers, section breaks, pagination,  linking documents.

Documents on how to use these are availble from the Academic Skills team, email us on 

Using Excel

Excel can be a powerful toool to use with your research.  You can carry out quite complex statistical calculations, data manupulation, create gracphs, and pivot tables. 

Some of these features may be unfamiliar to you when you start your research project.  Documents on how to use these are availble from the Academic Skills team. Email us on with details of the topics you would like userguides for.


Managing your data files and documents

As you progress with your research you will collect many files and documents.  Some will be those you create yourself and others will be other research papers and data you need to refer to.  It is important that you develop good file management practice from the start to enable you to handle all of the data you acquire effectively.

File naming

Files should be saved within an appropriate file structure.. You should consider whether to use a big flat folder for all your files or a hierarchical tree structure.  Generally some sort of a hierarchy will be better as it enables you to find group similar files together and to locate what you need more easily.  A complex structure means you can use shorter file names within the folder, but these may be less meaningful outside of that structure - for  example if you provide data to a supervisor or collaborator.  There is also the possibility that some files may have the same name, even though their content is different.

To avoid this try to use names that contain more details such as

  1. what you are doing with the file
  2. project or experiment name
  3. date of that version of the file.

Version control

It can be useful to save your document under a new name if you add extra information to it or manipulate the data, then if you decide you don't want the amendments you make, or want to go back to original data before performing calculations etc, yiou still have the oroginal to go back to. 

Develop a system for file naming that works for you and use it consistently.

Backing up your files

As well as using new filenames for different versions of your files it is essential that important data is backed up.  This might mean adding it to a secure shared drive on one of the University systems, keeping copies on USB drives or in the cloud.  However, you still need to practice good data management and get rid of older versions of files and take care when storing any personal data within your files.