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The Benefits of Handwriting Notes at School & University

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Taking notes is an essential part of the learning experience. Whether you're listening to a

lecture, reading a textbook, or conducting research, note-taking helps you remember important information and better understand complex concepts. However, with the rise of technology, many students have traded in pen and paper for laptops and tablets. But is digital note-taking really the most effective method for learning and retaining information?

According to a study published in Psychological Science, handwriting notes may be more beneficial for learning than typing. Researchers found that students who took handwritten notes were able to recall more information than those who typed their notes. This is because handwriting requires more cognitive processing, which helps with comprehension and retention of information.

...researchers found that students who took notes by hand were able to better understand and remember the material...

The study, conducted by psychologists Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, tested university students' ability to learn and retain information using a laptop versus handwriting notes. The researchers found that students who took notes by hand were able to better understand and remember the material than those who typed their notes on a laptop.

But why is this the case? The act of handwriting requires more cognitive effort than typing. When we write, we engage in a process called "encoding," where we transform information into our own words and ideas. This process helps us better understand and remember the information. In contrast, typing is more of a "verbatim" process, where we simply transcribe what we hear without processing the information deeply.


Handwriting notes also encourages students to be more selective and organised in their note-taking. Since handwriting takes more time than typing, students are forced to summarise and prioritise the information they write down. This helps them focus on the most important points and avoid copying down irrelevant information.


Furthermore, handwritten notes are easier to review and annotate. Students can easily circle, underline, or highlight important information, and add comments and questions in the margins. This makes it easier to revisit and review the material later on.


In conclusion, while technology has revolutionised the way we take notes, there is still value in the traditional method of handwriting notes. Handwriting engages our brains more deeply, encourages selectivity and organisation, and makes it easier to review and annotate our notes. So, the next time you're in a lecture or studying for an exam, consider reaching for a pen and paper instead of your laptop or tablet. Your brain may thank you for it!

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