Computer skills checklist for every (psychology) student.

I decided to put together a computer skills checklist. A lot of the things on this list are not specific to psychology and should be part of the training of every student. I would advise students to work through the list and note down any entries that you’re not comfortable with – finding out how to do these things and ticking off every item on the list will definitely advance your knowledge and help you out in future. Some of the things on the list have already been covered on this blog, and some I’m planning to cover in the future. Let me know in the comments if you think I’ve missed anything!

Green text denotes a basic/essential skill, orange means intermediate, red means it’s an advanced skill. Most students should be able to tick off all the green ones straight away – if you can’t you’ve got some work to do!

Assemble a computer (connect mouse/keyboard/monitor etc.)
Switch a computer on and off (duh…)
Use the keyboard and mouse effectively
Install a new piece of hardware (e.g. an optical drive)
Upgrade the RAM, or add/change a hard-drive or graphics card
Make changes to the system BIOS
Set up a raid array/configure a server
Diagnose a hardware problem – and then fix it!

Operating System
File management – creating, saving, naming files and folders, and finding them again!
Make changes to your system with Windows control panel, or OS X system preferences
Configure the start menu/dock, desktop, toolbars, widgets etc.
Install and uninstall programs
De-fragment your hard disk
Update your OS
Format or partition a hard disk.
(Re-)Install an OS

Open/close/save/save as… documents
Insert text and changing formatting (font, size, bold, italics, colour, etc.)
Navigate the menu/ribbon system to find functions
Move text around using cut/copy and paste commands
Use bullets and numbers in a list
Use the undo and redo functions
Insert page numbers and use of the header/footer
Insert symbols (Ê, ®, Φ, etc.)
Use the spellcheck/grammarcheck functions
Find/replace text throughout a document
Make changes to the page setup
Insert page/section breaks
Use the reviewing features
Insert a well-formatted table
Insert pictures/other objects into documents
Use styles effectively
Use text boxes
Create a form using fields

Spreadsheets (e.g. Excel)
Insert data
Insert/delete rows and columns
Format cells and cell contents (colour, font etc.)
Sort and filter data
Insert basic charts (histograms, line plots, etc.)
Freeze/split parts of a worksheet
The ‘Paste Special’ command for transposing data (and other functions)
Understand cell (‘A6’) and array references ($A$5:D$8)
Use basic formulas to calculate averages, standard deviations, sums etc.
Use formulas with logical or conditional operators (IF, SUMIF, AND etc.)
Import and export data to comma or tab separated text files

Insert text into a slide
Insert/delete slides
Insert text-boxes
Use/format bullet points and numbered lists
Effectively use powerpoint to deliver a presentation
Insert graphics
Create graphics using the drawing tools
Change the layout of a slide
Change the theme of a presentation
Create your own template/theme
Use the slide master features
Insert tables
Add animation to objects and use slide transitions
Embed audio and video into slides
Use the arrangement and grouping tools to work with complex graphics

Send and receive e-mails
Manage your e-mail using folders/labels
Send attachments with e-mails
Connecting to the internet
Search the internet with a search engine
Use social-networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace – if you must)
Effectively find information/references on public databases
Use online applications (like this one) for basic tasks
Set up an online survey using a site like Survey Monkey
Set up a personal homepage using a service like or Google sites
Learn to use a blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger

Register your own domain name
Use an application such as DreamWeaver to create a HTML page
Lean some HTML tags and create a basic page in a text editor
Learn how to use CSS in a website

Use basic graphics software (e.g. MSPaint) for opening and saving pictures in different formats
Use graphics software (e.g. Adobe Photoshop) for basic manipulation of images – changes of contrast, brightness, colour etc.
More advanced features of photoshop – applying filters, editing parts of a picture etc.
Using layers in photoshop
Even more advanced features in photoshop – creating graphics from scratch with the drawing tools (or using Adobe Illustrator)
Basic video editing using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie
More advanced editing using tools like FinalCut or Adobe Premiere
Basic sound editing using tools like Audacity
Advanced sound editing – filters, time-based effects, synthesis

Inserting data into a statistical program like SPSS
Basic data manipulation – sorting, computing averages etc.
Basic plotting of data
Basic analyses of data using univariate tests (e.g. t-test, Mann-Whitney)
Correlation analyses
Multivariate analyses using ANOVA
Advanced analyses (path analysis, factor analysis, multi-dimensional scaling)
Using SPSS syntax (or equivalent code) for performing and saving analyses

Create a simple rating experiment using powerpoint
Create a simple cognitive experiment using a system like Inquisit, DMDX or E-prime
Use advanced features of the above programs e.g. multimedia, online feedback, voice recognition, conditional looping, advanced data logging
Create a visual experiment using the Matlab Psychophysics toolbox
Program an experiment in a general purpose language such as visual basic, or C

Effectively use reference management software
Back-up your files to an external or cloud-based location
Get to know some basic Unix commands
Use/configure a home server/file-sharing network
Configure and use a printer for documents and photo’s
Learn what to do when you spill beer on your laptop

So there you have it – a set of basic, intermediate and advanced skills to master. I’ve probably forgotten loads – hit me up in comments if you spot any particularly egregious omissions. I’m planning to cover a lot of these topics in a lot more detail in the future, so stay tuned.


About Matt Wall

I do brains. BRAINZZZZ.

Posted on June 26, 2011, in Experimental techniques, Hardware, Internet, Programming, Software, Study Skills and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Great checklist! I’m looking forward to having a good dig through your articles

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  3. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit
    my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyway, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  4. Hey there, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility
    issues. When I look at your website in Chrome, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it
    has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, excellent blog!

  5. Was this the check list for psychology student? In computer science, students learn all these things. How can a psychology student have that much knowledge of computers and programming language?

    • Well… Why shouldn’t they? I think everyone should learn the basics of at least one programming language. It’s perfectly possible to learn these computer skills alongside psychology (or any other) degree, and it will pay enormous dividends in employability afterwards.

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