How would you answer?
“I take better, more detailed notes with ________.”
“I learn and remember more when I take notes with _______.”
Unless you are a pro at writing shorthand, your answer to the 1st question was probably “A”. Even an average typist can bang out 40-50 words-per-minute, about double the average hand-writing speed. Logically, more words equals more detailed notes. Hard to dispute that.
However, if you also answered “A” to the 2nd question, you may want to reconsider. Researchers from Princeton University and UCLA set out to test which notetaking method helped students get more out of a lecture. Thier conclusion? The pen is mightier than the keyboard.
What’s the Big Picture?
The study found that taking handwritten notes helped notetakers extract the overall concepts of the lecture, the “take away”. This resulted in an overall better understanding of the purpose and relevance of the material. On the other hand, the study concluded that the “shallower processing” involved in typing notes actually impaired students’ ability to see the ‘big picture’, instead focusing on details and raw facts.
“students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand”
But my typed notes are almost verbatim! Isn’t that better?
Though it initially appears counterintuitive, taking less detailed notes may actually help you learn and remember more.
Being unable to write everything down requires mentally sorting the information first, gathering the most important points, then rephrasing them in your own words to be as brief and concise as possible. Taking verbatim notes has the opposite effect...
"laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning”
The laptop note takers tended to drift into ‘transcription’ mode, gathering as much information as possible, without thought to the value or relevance of it. Ironically, this focus on gathering as much information as possible distracts our brains from actually thinking about the information itself.
It is the very process of actively listening, sorting, and summarizing information that defines learning. In turn, the deeper the learning, the easier it will be to remember later on.
Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Notebook in Pocket Size
More Effective Notes?
There was yet another interesting finding of the study, which surprised even the researchers. See our post “Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension” (coming soon) for perhaps the most compelling reason to take handwritten notes…
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