Typing vs. Handwriting Notes–Which Is Better?


By Published on June 14, 2018

After all the thought and planning, after all the applications and discussions, you are finally there. You sit down in your first college class, and there is a feeling of excitement to be taking that first step toward your degree and ultimately a new career. You feel a little nervous about the work and time ahead of you, but you have already considered that and are excited to get going. As the instructor steps up and starts welcoming you and your fellow students to the course, you glance around and notice something. Many of the people sitting in the desks around you have their fingers poised over freshly opened laptops. You start to wonder, should you also be taking your notes on a lapto? You have one at home for your papers, emails, and online research, but should you take your notes on it as well?

This is an excellent question since laptops in class are so common and many people now seem to prefer this method of taking notes. To see if it is right for you, consider these pros and cons to typing your notes versus writing them by hand. We will invoke some scientific research to help you make your decision.

The pros of typing your notes

Let’s start with the benefits of using that laptop for typing your notes. First, people tend to type faster than they can write. This allows you to capture more information more quickly so you get a fuller picture of the lecture or discussion that you can review later.

And while you are reviewing those notes, if they are typed, you are also more likely to be able to read them. When we write fast by hand, things can get sloppy and difficult to decipher later on, especially when enough time has passed for the details of the lecture to be less clear in our memories.

The pros of handwriting

Now let’s take a look at the benefits of handwriting your notes. First off, there is the ease and accessibility of doing so. It is often more convenient to have a pen and paper on hand than it is to always remember your computer. On top of that, when using a computer, you not only have to remember to bring it, you also need to remember to have it charged (or to make sure you get a spot near an outlet). Many classrooms are now equipped with outlets at every student spot, but battery life is still an issue at times. Not so much for your pen, as ink supply is a less frequently encountered issue.

Finally, there is one major benefit to handwriting that was discovered in a study published in Psychological Science. Researchers found that students who take notes by hand tend to learn more than those who type their notes on a laptop.

Why? It comes back to one of those benefits of typing your notes, actually. Since people can type faster than they can write, they also tend to be able to take down all or most of the information presented without having to filter it. While on the surface, this seems like a major advantage, it comes with a disadvantage as well. Since students who write their notes by hand cannot get it all down, they have to be more selective. So while they take their notes, they have to process the information on the spot to decide what is important enough to write down and what they can leave out. Or they have to process the information enough to be able to summarize it in fewer words. This extra round of information processing helps make it more memorable, so those who write their notes tend to have a better understanding of the subject matter. It’s like one extra round of studying each time they take notes.

The verdict

Based on the information above, writing your notes by hand seems to be the winner. Of course, it is up to you to decide what works best for you, but if you want to make a decision based on scientific evidence, then you can feel better about leaving that laptop at home.

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