Taking Notes: Pen and Paper vs. Laptop

 

 

When it comes to taking notes in the classroom, there always seems to be a debate surrounding the most effective method: typing them on a laptop or writing them using pen and paper. To choose which one is better, here are the pros and cons of each!

 

Typed Notes

Pros:

Typing notes makes organizing notes a breeze. Everything is located in one place and there’s no need for multiple notebooks or binders, which also frees up backpack space! On top of easy access, using a laptop also makes it much easier to go back and re-format notes or insert a bullet point under a previous header.

 

Computers allow for a wide variety of programs and resources to take notes with. Google Drive makes it easy to access notes anywhere, at any time, and on any computer. While Google Drive is accessible only online, there are also many programs to use that do not require internet access, such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft OneNote, and pre-installed note-taking apps on laptops.

 

Typing notes is usually a lot faster than handwriting them, which can be beneficial if a professor is notorious for talking fast. If you’re worried about missing important information in a lecture, typing notes may be your best bet!

 

Finally, notes typed on a laptop make it easy to plug them into online studying resources such as Quizlet.

 

Cons:

According to Scientific American, research conducted across three experiments explains that “students who use laptops can take notes in a fairly mindless, rote fashion, with little analysis or synthesis by the brain” and “fails to promote a meaningful understanding or application of the information.” So, as temptingly easy as it may be to type notes, doing so might make it harder to learn and remember the material!

 

Handwritten Notes

Pros:

The same research explained in Scientific American demonstrated that “those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who used took notes with their laptops.” It goes on to say that writing notes “is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture.  Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information. Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy ‘mental lifting,’ and these efforts foster comprehension and retention.” Overall, “those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who used took notes with their laptops.” That’s a pretty good reason to take notes by hand, even compared to the convenience of using a laptop!

 

University of Illinois junior Savanna Pflugmacher, a Molecular and Cellular Biology student, said “I always rewrite my lecture notes on note cards to study for exams. Physically writing things out is sort of studying in and of itself...it helps me remember everything better.”

 

Cons:

A lot of the cons of taking notes by hand are the opposite of the advantages of using a laptop. For example, it requires notebooks and binders, which take up more backpack space and can be fairly heavy. It’s also more difficult to take word-for-word notes, which is sometimes the only way to do well in an especially difficult class!

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