Quick tips for first year university students

Especially if you are from a country with a different kind of digital development, first year at university in another country can be very confusing. There are often hidden expectations. These ways of doing things that people just assume you know.

Here are a few tips I have put together after working with some students who are new to university studies. They are arranged into four categories. It is not intended to look like a complete list and is just a few ideas about common tasks that take some time to get used to. Perhaps you could add to these?

Formatting tips

1. To quickly change a title from title case (This is an Example) to sentence case (This is an example), highlight your title and press the shift key and the F3 key together at the same time (a little one at the top of the keyboard). Try this 2 or 3 times and see what happens each time. If nothing happens, highlight the text and press the shift key, the function key (Fn, bottom left of the keyboard) and the F3 key together at the same time.

Still confused? Watch this video:


2. To select a particular version of English spelling (e.g. Australian English), follow these steps before you start to write: Home/Language/Language Preferences/English (Australia)/OK

If you have already written some of your text and discover a mix of spelling styles in it, possibly because you wrote it on different computers, you can highlight the whole piece of writing  first then follow the steps listed above.

Tips to analyse research

1. When reviewing a study, follow these 4 steps:

  • State its aim or its research questions using the exact wording of the article.
  • State the overall steps in the methodology.
  • List the main findings
  • List the main recommendations.

2. When analysing an article or book chapter, ask questions that begin with “how”, “why”, or “which” (e.g. which factors…, which theories…).

3. When you are forming a research question, don’t make one which can be answered by “yes” or “no”.

Writing tips

1. To provide more details about a general point, (e.g. the theories used), give examples in a list or some short phrases.

2. Avoid using the term “etc”. It is too vague.

3. Do not use “&” in the grammar of a sentence. You can use it for an in-text reference only when it appears inside parentheses like this: (Moghimehfar, Halpenny, & Ziaee, 2014).

4. Refer to things in the same order each time you present them. For instance, if you are analysing a multidisciplinary approach using both psychology and education, if you write about psychology first, then education, continue to write about psychology first each time you compare the two perspectives.

Referencing tips

1. To make a hanging indent for an APA reference list, follow these steps:

Home/Paragraph/click the little arrow on the right/Special/Hanging.

You can highlight the whole reference list at one time and do this once for the entire list but then carefully check everything is done properly.

2. To check that:

  1. every in-text reference is in the reference list,
  2. every reference in the reference list is mentioned as an in-text reference,

you can subscribe to Recite to do this quickly for APA and Harvard referencing:


3. To put your reference list in alphabetical order, try this method:


4. Remember to include the volume number, issue number (if there is one) and the first and last pages putting an article in a reference list. It isn’t necessary to give the last page number in APA 7 but if there is one you should include it.

I hope these quick tips are helpful for students who are new to researching and writing at university.  Feel free to share them with anyone you know who might need some of them.