Students believe that typing notes during a lecture is faster than writing them down by hand. They are right, but faster does not necessarily mean better.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have found that while taking notes by hand is slower, students using that method perform better in class. Part of the issue is a tendency to try to type notes verbatim because the student can type faster, according to researchers Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of UCLA.
“The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective—because you can’t write as fast as you type,” Mueller said in an interview for National Public Radio. “And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”
For the study, Mueller and Oppenheimer had university students listen to TED talks on various subjects. The first study group typed notes on a laptop, while the second wrote out their notes. Both groups did well remembering simple facts such as dates, but the students using their laptops did much worse when asked questions that were more conceptual in nature.
The researchers got the same results when they told students using laptops for note-taking to avoid writing things down verbatim. In a third study, Mueller and Oppenheimer gave students the chance to review their notes before testing, but students who wrote out their notes still performed better.
“This is suggestive evidence that longhand notes may have superior external storage as well as superior encoding functions,” Mueller and Oppenheimer wrote in an article appeared in Psychological Science.