Taking notes by hand, experimenting with notetaking styles helps students retain more than typing

September 6, 207

Eleanor Sturt

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    Call me old-fashioned, but I like writing my class notes by hand.

    I used to show up to class with nothing except my tablet, until I stumbled on a class where the professor prohibited tablets or laptops for note-taking.

    At the time, I obliged with a groan. Now, I will never look back.

    Taking notes by hand has helped me to remember information that I need to succeed in my classes. Students, especially those in classes with complex material, should consider different notetaking styles to retain what they’re learning in a more effective way

    According to an article published in The New York Times, a neural circuit is triggered when you write. This causes the brain to recognize the actual gesture of writing a specific word and leads to a deeper understanding of the content written.

    Psychological research also backs up the benefits of notetaking.

    A 2014 study published in Psychological Science found that notetaking on laptops resulted in a shallower understanding of the material. In this study, students who took notes by hand had a better grasp on the information.

    Results showed that students who took notes by hand would only write down information that was critical for their understanding. But students with laptops tended to focus on lecture material word-by-word; they had all the information, but didn’t understand it.

    For me, the information I wrote by hand was certainly easier to remember than the information I typed.

    It should come as no surprise that there are different styles of notetaking. As you listen to lecture upon lecture, it is important you find the style that best suits you.

    It is different for every student, and if one style of notetaking doesn’t work for you, try another. Keep taking notes by hand until you find a rhythm.

    My notes tend to look like an outline for a presentation. I start with the major theme presented and indent in for concepts and other sub thoughts.

     I rarely take notes longer than a line, and I tend to avoid full sentences to keep my notes concise for easy studying.

    If a professor gives a definition, I will star it in the margins, so it stands out more when I’m studying.

    I also avoid excess writing and drawing on the page, because I find it distracting from my actual notes.     But this is not true for all students.

    Students who are visual learners may find doodling as helpful to visualize the concepts they learn. Using the action within a note and doodling something on the side may help students better understand and compute the information.

    Circling, underlining and drawing arrows to connect thoughts may also help visual students as the take notes.

    Taking notes by hand also keeps me actively listening for key words, forcing me to focus even in the most boring of lectures.

    Of course, there have been classes where my notetaking style does not work and sometimes I have to tweak my notes and adjust to the class. Overall, taking notes by hand has aided me to not only understand and remember the information, but also to pick out and use the information to prove an argument.

    So, leave your laptop behind at home.

    Sometimes the old-fashioned way is better.