Benefits of Physical Note Taking

If you take notes, whether it’s for school or work, it’s important to make sure that you’re retaining the information that’s being presented to you.

The best way to do this is simply by writing it down with a pen and paper. Studies show that people who physically take notes are more likely to retain information as opposed to people who took notes with their laptop.

The study, conducted by two professors, one from UCLA and the other from Princeton, had two groups of students take notes on five subjects: bread, bats, algorithms, economics and faith. One group of students used pen and paper, the other used their computer.

After they took their notes, the students were tested for three things. 1) How well they memorized the facts, 2) conceptual understanding and 3) how well they could then synthesize and generalize the information.

These were the results:

Pen and Paper

  • Wrote less than people with laptops because they couldn’t keep up with the professor
  • Learned more because they had to focus on listening, digesting and summarizing on the fly
  • Forced the brain to understand the material

Laptop

  • Wrote more than pen and paper
  • Learned less because they could type as quickly as the professor could talk, so they were just recording the lecture rather than processing it.
  • Their brain didn’t have to work as hard to understand.

Not only did people who took notes on their laptop remember less, but they’re also more likely to goof off in class and on average, spend about 40% of class time doing other things online or working on something from a different class.

However, writing with pen and paper is becoming a hassle in schools these days because of how important technology is becoming in school. If you find it more difficult to write with pen and paper, take notes on your laptop, then go home and pull apart your notes so that you’re really able to remember the information. Write down summaries, ask questions to research later and make sure you understand the content.