OneNote in HE: the Dissertation!

This is a guest post from Hélène Fyffe, an undergraduate starting her final year at Edinburgh Napier University, having spent a year on placement with Microsoft UK Education as part of her course.


Having recently spent a brilliant year doing a one year placement with Microsoft UK Education, I'm now back in the 'real' world of education, already in my sixth week in fourth year at Napier University, Edinburgh. I'm going to spend the next few months putting my 'technology in education' theories from the past year into practice and providing tips to academics and students on how to make the best use of Microsoft technology in higher education.

Undergrad challenge of a lifetime

This year I will face the ultimate undergrad task…THE DISSERTATION. This word has hideously negative connotations for lots of students; hair being pulled out, research going up in flames and the all-time low, files curiously vanishing the day before hand-in.

Strangely, I'm actually relishing the experience; partly due to my supportive teachers and the interesting topic I've chosen, but also because I feel very equipped and organised to tackle the beast.

I'm going to spend the next sections of this blog outlining how useful OneNote can be for students writing dissertations.

OneNote and the dissertation

So here are the top 3 advantages that I think OneNote can provide a student writing their dissertation:

1. Categorisation

You can imagine how maze-like hard-drive folders and even your cloud drive can become throughout the year with the sheer load of journal papers, links and theoretical framework analyses being saved for the dissertation. Instead of having dozens of word docs and pdf files saved in folder upon folder of sub-saved folder, I've found a much better system using OneNote: you can save literature in categories according to chapters, all on one page which makes it easy to remember at a glance which literature resource is relevant to which chapter. It saves time trawling through folders and you can also add the links of the resources for the bibliography later.

2. Note taking

Of course OneNote is an ideal app for jotting down notes in lecture classes and workshops. For students who want to record notes (hopefully that's every student) to accompany lectures or guidance sessions, they can bring along their device to the lecture and use the 'Lecture Notes' templates which vary from simple to more detailed templates. The templates are a great tool for guiding students to record the most key learnings from the lecture and preventing a scrawl of thoughts:

Another essential form of note taking will be for students carrying out interviews to gather qualitative research for topics examining things like people's feelings and attitudes. I must admit, I was torn between smugly smirking to myself and jumping up and shouting to the entire 300 students in the lecture hall when the lecturer enlightened us on the process of conducting interviews with research candidates: she advised students to make sure to allocate time to spending hours retyping interview data from note pads into pc-format for analysis. I certainly won't be making that error and I hope this blog will spur you to inform any students writing dissertations about OneNote to also save them from this pain.

3. Planning

A big challenge lots students juggle with is time management. Many of my friends (even now in fourth year) have been pretty concerned about how to manage the timeline for planning, researching and writing their dissertation in time for hand-in in April 2015. With its useful 'tick-box' features, colour-coding and filing capabilities, OneNote can essentially become a student's project management tool for the year.

The best thing is how accessible the app is - not many students are aware that OneNote is available to Office 2007, Office 2010, Office 2013 and Office 365 users as a free download!

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