Taking notes via handwriting can help you learn better, says study

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handwriting

Nowadays more and more students use laptops to take notes in class. When typing notes via keyboard, students can save the information to a laptop directly. Many people think this can save time and is more efficient than handwriting.

However, researchers recently find that taking notes via handwriting can bring more benefits to learning than taking notes on laptops. The finding is published in Psychological Science.

The study was conducted by Princeton University and University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers conducted three experiments to examine students’ learning after taking notes via writing and students’ learning after taking notes via typing.

In the first experiment, 67 college students watched TED talks about interesting topics. They were asked to take nots with their normal classroom note-taking strategy. Each student could use laptop or pen-notebook. After the talks, students answered questions about the talks.

Researchers found that students who took notes on laptops did worse in the post-test questions than students who took notes by writing.

Researchers suggest that this is because when using laptops to take notes, students just type whatever they heard without thinking about it much.

In the second experiments, 151 participants did the same task: they watched TED talks and took notes in their favorite way. This time, researchers gave an intervention to half of the laptop users. They reminded students to take notes with their own words and not to just type word-for-word what the speaker was saying.

After the talks, all students completed a test about the talk content. Researchers found that the intervention did not significantly improve memory in the laptop users, though the difference between the laptop-intervention group and the handwriting group was smaller.

In the third experiment, 109 students listened to lectures and took notes with laptops or pen and paper. After that, half students (using either note taking methods) were given 10 min to study their notes before the test, whereas the rest students took the test immediately.

Researchers found that when students were unable to study, there was no difference between laptop and handwriting note taking. However, when students had an opportunity to study, note taking by handwriting led to better performance.

Researchers suggest that compared with laptop note taking, handwriting may have better information-storage and better encoding functions. When students review the written notes, they can recall more lecture information than reviewing laptop notes.


Citation: Mueller PA, Oppenheimer DM. (2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science, 25: 1159-1168. doi: 10.1177/0956797614524581.
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