Every dissertation needs Outlook

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 spent a year working with Microsoft UK Education and now in my final and most challenging year of university, I want to share my thoughts on how Office 365 Pro Plus could be a valuable tool for students in university carrying out extensive research projects or dissertations.

With my dissertation module in full swing, I'm currently writing up my proposal for what I plan to achieve and how I plan to execute my aims which is making me think about all the stages I am going to have to go through. While secondary research is a staple necessity for all research projects, many degrees such as science, social science and business degrees also require students to conduct their own primary research.

As we're probably all aware, dissertations and projects involving primary research essentially aim to establish gaps in a specific field of research and to come up with new evidence. The basis of the research is to find potential solutions to an issue, problem or opportunity in a certain field to try and make a positive difference in the world. Probably the most approachable illustration is the hundreds of scientists on the hunt to find a cure for cancer. Unfortunately I doubt that my dissertation will come even a fraction close to uncovering anything as ground-breaking but hopefully it will at least interest my supervisor.

Primary research - surveys

Many of my peers and I following business degrees have decided to base our primary research on assessing the opinions and/or behaviours of people , as will many more students with a humanitarian or social flavour. Probably the most common type of primary research is conducting online surveys which you send to your research sample. I think it's fair to say that the prospect of collecting surveys from at least 100 people is daunting to most students. Not only will finding 100 willing respondents be challenging but managing the communications will also be tricky.

As always, technology can help to break down heaving platters of work into delectable bite-size chunks. I want to highlight some of the benefits that Microsoft Outlook, as part of Office 365 Pro Plus for students could bring to the table for students.

Ready, set, 150 emails!

With the prospect of sending at least 150 emails out to people with the link to their online survey, the first thing that students will appreciate is having 'work-centric' Outlook account that will avoid them from receiving dozens of responses in their personal email accounts. What student wants to go from flicking through the latest ASOS range to seeing 20 'actionable' survey responses at 11pm at night?

Now this is the juicy bit. For students to fire off their survey links to the masses, they no longer have to be sitting at a PC at university. The Microsoft Exchange server behind Office 365 Pro Plus will enable them to send their emails from anywhere with Wi-Fi. In addition, students can download Office 365 Pro Plus (including Outlook) on up to 5 different devices! Research has shown that students use multiple devices for many different purposes so having the flexibility to put their Outlook on their tablet, laptop and phone means they can manage their emails wherever and whenever it suits their busy schedules. I already have a cosy coffee shop in mind for when I plough through mine.

For students who want to get really geeky, they can even schedule their emails to go out at a certain time and date.

Can I interview you please?

Now surveys aren't for everyone. Some students will decide to carry out in-depth interviews or observation experiments. The more courageous of students may even choose to conduct their research with a sample pool of respondents outside the university lecture room, such as with representatives from organisations or charities. Evidently this will involve having to communicate with the representatives at some stage by email. For many organisations, the question of security may come into play with communicating information with students over the internet. It is therefore a huge benefit for students that Outlook is a rigorously secure communication platform - employees from organisations may well feel more likely to respond to the students when they see that students aren't using a Hotmail email address. By having a secure enterprise grade tool at their disposal, students are in a flexible position to get creative with their dissertation and who they conduct their research with.

Communication technology skills ..check!

Finally I want to throw in one more little benefit into the mix. By having become experts at using the professional Outlook service, students will be able to promote this skill to employers who largely operate in the same or similar communication environment.

I hope this blog has been useful in sharing some insightful ways in which final year students can benefit from Outlook as part of Office 365 Pro Plus for students.

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