Note-Taking Techniques: Laptop vs Notepad

If you attend college, at times you may have a feeling of drowning in the sea of information, data, figures and facts to deal with. The most difficult time for every student is definitely the examination period when one has to be extremely organized and 100% focused. The key to your success during exams may be quite simple – neat and properly structured notes.

Nowadays laptops are often used in classrooms, however classic notepads stand their grounds as well. Professors and students have various points of view as to typing notes vs writing notes in college. So what’s better, let’s try to make sense of it.

How to take notes in college?

Every method of taking notes definitely has its advantages and drawbacks, let’s deal with them.

With a laptop you can (Pros):

  • Be faster. Typing increases your chances to get all the details down as you type faster than write.
  • Be organized. Your records, digital course outline, calendar and all the necessary sources can be stored in one and the same place, thus you have immediate access to everything without the need to carry overstuffed folders with paper notes.
  • Copy-paste the necessary data whether it’s from your notes, tables or some research. It may help you to prepare for your test, write an exploratory paper or coursework.
  • Share notes via email. In case you want to share the notes or to get some from your fellow-students, just use your email. There is no risk of losing a notepad or need of tearing leaves out of it. You can write an email to ask your classmate or professor to make some aspects more clear if you failed to understand them or put them down during the lecture.

However, you also can (Cons):

  • Be easily distracted. At some moment Facebook or Twitter may seem more interesting than a dull, though important lecture of your professor.
  • Note everything down thoughtlessly. Verbatim note-taking is passive, hence you do not absorb enough information.
  • Have technical difficulties. Poor internet connection may be the least evil to be mentioned, blue screen or crashing may result in losing your notes and it may actually happen any moment.

With a notepad you can (Pros):

  • Improve your memory. Writing increases memorization and recollection of information.
  • Be selective. Being unable to put down everything you hear, you become engaged with the lecture and tease out the key points.
  • Illustrate your thoughts. You can underline or star something, draw arrows or sketch out tables, label important points with the signs that will help you understand the material.

You can also (Cons):

  • Be slow. Either the lecturer is too quick in providing information to the class or your hand simply gets sore, you can sometimes write slower than you’d wish to.
  • Have bad handwriting. Sometimes it may prevent you from understanding certain aspects in your own notes.
  • Doodle. When the lectures are dull or monotonous it may be quite tempting to sketch something instead of concentrating on taking notes.

Though sometimes the idea of taking notes by hand may already seem outdated, there are still benefits of doing things the old-fashioned way. Let’s have a better grip of the topic.

Is taking notes on a laptop effective?

Now as we’ve looked into the common aspects of note-taking, let’s learn the scientific point of view to the question a bit.

  1. Cameron together with his activist research group People for Education have proved that long-term and short-term memory depend on what an individual values and what one is interested in.
  2. Mueller and D. Oppenheimer made 3 experiments where the learners took notes in their usual classroom conditions. Some students did it with laptops, others by hand. Later all the participants were checked for material understanding, factual details retention and ability to generalize and synthesize the information.

In the first experiment, the group was shown TED talks on various topics. In the second study, the participants were deliberately asked to avoid taking notes on laptops verbatim. In the third experiment, the learners were allowed to review their records before the test.

In all 3 studies, the participants with laptops showed the result of having more information noted.  Nevertheless, the ones who did it on paper showed better conceptual understanding of what they’ve heard and ability to apply the studied material. Besides, the learners who were using laptops failed to remember information for long.

One more research in 2016 revealed that students typing with one hand demonstrated the same results as those who took notes by hand.

Almost 80% of Ontario students admitted they have been using technology for the process of studying since kindergarten already.

Technology can definitely provide an outstanding advantage to handwriting in some spheres. However, both methods should co-exist in the educational process, and every learner should develop his own effective note-taking method.

How to improve your note-taking technique?

General advice:

  1. Point out the main idea. It will help you comprehend the key point of every lecture you attend, and simplify the review process.
  2. Note the points you will not be able to find out anywhere else. Find out if the presentation demonstrated is available and note only the important things that professor says. It’s not always necessary to put down every word of a lecturer.
  3. Follow the lecturer. Whatever the lecturer finds the most important, he will most likely emphasize in his speech, thus prioritize them in your records as well.
  4. Put down the possible questions. It will be helpful for your paper or project work, and you can use those questions later to revise your knowledge and prepare for a test.
  5. Visualize. Charts, Tables, Maps, color highlighters, drawings and other visual aids help to emphasize the most significant points.
  6. Review. Oversee and expand your notes several hours after the lecture, the information will then root better in your mind.

For Notes by hand:

  1. Make the best of kinesthetic value. When you write you slow down, becoming conscious of what you write, so make use of it.
  2. Date the records to keep your papers in the right chronological order for better revision.

For Electronic Notes:

  1. Make your documents properly arranged.
  2. Use apps and cloud technology to be able to access the records from any gadget or device.
  3. Cite the used sources and highlight the borrowed material for extra visualization.

To polish your notes you may also make it a rule to type every handwritten material and review the digital one, reduce the information on each topic to a single page study guide. It will embed the knowledge deeper into your mind, and besides, you can print it and overlook any time you want to refresh your memory. Adopting such a simple tactic, you’ll definitely get only A-grades.

Pursuing MCA from the University of Delhi, Saurabh Saha is an experienced blogger and internet marketer. Through his popular technology blogs: TechGYD.COM &, he is helping several brands to gain exposure in front of high-quality web visitors.