An individually assessed exercise used a spreadsheet as a simple organising tool to investigate refereed journal literature about communities in an undergraduate third-year sociology class. The spreadsheet exercise has proved to be a revelation in the responses of students being asked to undertake the assignment valued at fifteen per cent of total grade. This reaction to the teaching exercise has been consistent across several years the class has run, notwithstanding refinements from student feedback and other adjustments to achieve the pedagogical intention of the instructor. The article describes how the exercise challenges students to identify, list and organize the wealth of journal literature sources available in the intersecting academic fields studying communities, so they can later draw on this material in their main research assignment for the subject. Underlying assumptions of the teaching exercise include the belief that some minimal spreadsheet competence is today necessary for any professional, managerial or administrative workforce role, regardless of training domain in science, social science or humanities.

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