The Ultimate Showdown: Typed Versus Handwritten Notes

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Every year when school starts, I tell myself a bunch of lies about how I’m going to change this year. I’m going to make my bed every morning. I’m going to cook myself dinner instead of ordering Jimmy Johns. I’m going to exercise every day. I’m going to take my notes by hand. And, usually, I go strong for about a week before I revert back to my old ways, chief among them taking notes on my laptop. So, am I really worse off by typing my notes? Or have fans of handwritten notes just drunk the Kool-Aid?

Round 1: Pace/Ease

In a perfect world, professors would pace their classes so slowly that I could leisurely color-code my notes in a college-ruled notebook. However, most of my classes whip by faster than that one friend we all have who drives like a maniac, and like many other people, I type way faster than I write. If I make a mistake on my computer, it’s easy to go back and fix it without leaving ugly scratches all over the page. If I want to elaborate a little, I can just add a new line instead of writing in the margins. I can’t be the only one that hates taking notes in the margins… Maybe I am. Whatever.

Winner: Typed

Round 2: Concentration

Unfortunately, technology turns me into Dug from Up in the way of concentration (Squirrel!). I’m taking notes, sure, but I’m also checking my email, browsing through the sales going on at Tobi, looking at GroupMe, maybe just a couple rounds of Candy Crush and before I know it, I’m not taking notes at all. Clearly, people understand the struggle because we administered a survey that spoke volumes. Out of 100 responders, 73 preferred to take notes on paper, while 23 opted for a laptop—and four said that they don’t take notes in class at all (Don’t ask me how those people survive midterms — it’s a mystery).

Winner: Handwritten

Round 3: Cold Hard Facts

It’s not just distracting to take notes on a laptop—it simply doesn’t work as well. In a 2014 study published in Psychological Science, when students that studied the same material were given a comprehension test, the group that took notes by hand scored far better than those who that took notes on a laptop. Even taking away the distractions of the Internet wasn’t enough; the act of writing simply engrains material better than the act of typing.

Winner: Handwritten

Round 4: The Professional Opinion

Eric Adams graduated from the University of Maryland College Park in 2014 with a degree in communication. He now works in advertising and marketing with Reach to Teach, and teaches elementary school in Taipei, Taiwan. “I used to take my laptop to class and take notes and now that I’m older, I realize that that might not have been the best…I just wanted to be able to surf the Internet,” Adams said. In hindsight, Adams said he is fairly anti-computer when it comes to class. “Becoming an educator has made me think a lot more about certain educational issues…I think generally it creates a lot of distractions for people. Even if I wasn’t using one, if someone in front of me was, I’d get distracted,” Adams explained.

Another point for handwritten notes

At this point, I’m pretty frustrated. When I write my notes by hand, they’re sloppy, hurried and bound to get beat to hell in the bottomless pit that is my backpack. On the other hand, when I’m typing my notes, however much I concentrate, I’m still not getting as much out of the lecture as my peers who take notes by hand. “I think taking paper notes, then typing them up later would have a double inscription kind of effect,” Adams said. In a way, this method solves my problem. My notes can be pretty and not torn to shreds, but I’ll still have the benefit of hand-writing them. The caveat is that it takes a bit longer to type up something you’ve written, but it’s an extremely effective and simple way to study. My verdict? Don’t ditch the laptop forever, but leave it in your room.

Hannah is a junior English and Film Studies major at the University of Maryland College Park. She loves wrapping presents, studying Wumbology, watching Mad Men with her King Charles Spaniel, Belle, collecting foam fingers, and referencing Spongebob mostly to see who notices.

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