Taking Notes: Why Writing Is Better Than Typing

April 27, 2019


A 2014 study, published in Psychological Science, shows that writing notes by hand is much better for long-term conceptual memory.  When you want to remember  -  write.  


The study was comprised of students listening to a lecture and then taking a test.  Some took notes with a computer; the others wrote in a notebook.  When it came to the exam, each group performed equally well as regards facts.  But with conceptual information, the students who wrote their notes did much better.  In fact, they remembered the conceptual information better as much as a week later, when they were again tested. 


The researchers, scientists from Princeton University and the University of California, conjectured that students who type often write down the professor's lecture word-for-word.  Often, they don't stop to really consider what they're writing, a term sometimes called "mindless transcription."


On the other hand, students who write their notes need to first process what they're writing.  People tend to write more slowly than they type, and so it would be difficult for the average student to type notes word-for-word.  Rather, the student has to quickly assess the main points of the lecture, so that they can summarize them in a few words.  This quick analysis leads to deeper understanding.



So, the next time you're in class, consider leaving the computer at home.


Happy Learning!



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