Why You Should Take Notes By Hand

When was the last time you used a pen to scribble down notes? For many students, writing materials have been replaced with laptops and tablets when it comes to taking down notes. While many argue for the convenience of having such gadgets around, let’s be honest—are you really taking down notes in class or distracted with the temptation to browse the web?

Of course, many professors have shifted to using digital copies of their learning materials, but the benefits of taking down notes by hand can’t be written out. In the study done by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard”, the two researchers found that laptops impair learning; students who took down notes using their laptops were found to have performed poorly when it comes to conceptual questions. This is a stark contrast to students who took notes longhand, as they were able to process and retain information better.

Personally, what the researchers found in the study isn’t surprising, and makes a lot of sense. Using a traditional writing instrument is relatively a more complicated task than tapping away at your keyboard. When you take down notes with an instrument, your mind has to sift through the information you receive from sight and hearing to find what’s worth jotting down. Compare this with laptops and tablets, where there can be a tendency to log things down word-for-word, which may be what the researchers are on about with regards to poor performance against conceptual questions.

In the end, the use of laptops and tablets isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, but this doesn’t mean that students can’t incorporate traditional note-taking to do better in class. If you have a major exam, maybe you can study using a pen or pencil to process and retain information better.