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Writing vs Typing Debate

When it comes time to take during class or when studying, do you reach for a pen and paper, or do you reach for your laptop?

One of the ways to better cement knowledge in your brain is to write your study notes by hand rather than type them. A simple change can make things easier to recall on test day.

Hard to believe? 

Research published recently in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, echoes previous studies, such as one often-cited 2014 study called “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Keyboard,” which shows that writing notes by hand allowed participants to retain information better than those who typed on a laptop, even if they wrote fewer words overall.

When students take notes by hand, it develops a stronger conceptual understanding than by typing. Since handwriting is slower and more tedious, it makes it harder to take notes verbatim. Therefore students have to actually process the information and summarize it in a way that makes sense for them.

Writing vs. Typing

Is there a difference between typing your notes on a laptop or tablet and using a pen and paper? Research indicates that physically writing things down appears to be the winner.

Yes, writing by hand is a slower task, but it makes it so that students have to be more selective in what they’re writing. Researchers have also found that the actual processes involved in writing by hand mean students have a deeper understanding of the material.

If students are still going to use a laptop or tablet over pen and paper, they’re not doomed. However, students need to override their instinct to write everything and instead be more selective. And, of course, organize their notes immediately afterward and review them regularly.

Why Note-Taking is a Big Deal

Firstly, students do not need to write down everything. This is a mistake many students make.

Yes, there’s the issue of not writing enough or as robustly. However, as much as we’d like to think we will remember what a teacher or instructor said, most of us don’t have a memory that recalls everything.

And when it comes to textbooks and notes prepared by a student’s teacher, it may feel like overkill to make their notes, but they really should.

Students will see it done in all sorts of ways, but there are a few tried and true techniques.

Note-Taking Methods That Work

If students’ in-class notes are messy, unorganized, and unclear at first glance, they’re not going to get much use out of them. This has nothing to do with how neat their handwriting is—it’s about how their notes are structured. Read more about the best note-taking methods.

Oxford Learning Can Help

Active listening is a skill. It’s a skill that’s required in order to take great study notes. Learn more about active listening and how to improve a student’s active listening in this article. 

Learn More

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