Once you've mastered the basics of Word and Excel, you can practise your skills and put them to good use by conducting some research. No matter what your job, most professions require some form of survey to be done from time to time. If you run your own business, try measuring customer satisfaction with your products or services. If you are an employee, ask your manager if you can practise your Office skills by surveying something that the department requires - an assessment of employee opinion on a new project or building, for example, or a quick telephone survey of customers (or potential ones) will usually be appreciated.

The first step of any survey is designing the form. This should be done in Word. Think about how you are going to execute the survey. Will it be you who completes them (for example, a telephone survey of customers?) or will it be the customers (or fellow employees) themselves? If it's the latter, then a tick box survey might be better (with multiple choice questions), or asking people to give questions or statements marks out of ten. Open ended questions should be avoided as the survey is designed to be simple and the data that comes out of it should be measurable.

Try not to make the survey too long, or people will feel less inclined to either speak on the phone for such a length of time, or they will take one look at the paper format and decide they'd rather spend some of their spare time doing something else! One or two pages is good. Giving people the option of anonymity usually reveals more honest survey results. If you do have to write down people's personal information, make sure you adhere to the Data Protection Act. You don't want to get yourself, or your company, in any trouble.

Once you've got enough responses (the more you have, the more representative the data will be - the opinions of three people won't necessarily reflect the whole, but 300 would), it's time to use Excel to analyse the data. Create a new table/workbook with the survey questions at the top of columns, and perhaps people's names (or anonymous titles such as "candidate 1") across the rows. You can then enter the data as it was provided to you.

Formulas are a good way to take a look at the finished data. You can add up the amounts (out of ten) and calculate an average response, or perhaps look at the incidences of how many people gave one question one mark out of ten, and so on. This all depends on what you're trying to find out in your data. Once you do, you'll need to share it. Charts and tables are the best way to do this, but you can also export them to other Office programs to best get your message across. For example, a PowerPoint presentation, or designing a simple webpage with FrontPage. Make sure that you tell your audience the survey method and number of people surveyed, so that they are clear on how it was conducted.

Simple research is made easier with Office, and it's a good way to practise or showcase your skills. Why not design a survey asking how people use Office to identify training needs at work? Both your boss - and your fellow employees - will appreciate their chance to give feedback.