Monday, April 28, 2014

Handwritten Notes = Better Comprehension

handwritten notes = better comprehensionA recent study on 65 college students published in Psychological Science compared  handwritten notes to using a keyboard to take notes.  The college students watched one of 5 TED talks and were given a laptop (disconnected from internet) or a regular notebook to take notes.  Following the talks, the students were given three distractor tasks including a working memory task.  Thirty minutes later, the students had to answer factual recall  and conceptualization questions.

The results indicated the following:

 1.  the two types of note-takers performed equally well on questions that involved recalling facts but the laptop note-takers performed significantly worse on the conceptual questions.

2.  the notes from laptop users contained more words and more verbatim overlap with the lecture, compared to the notes that were written by hand.

3.  students who took more notes performed better, but so did those who had less verbatim overlap, suggesting that the benefit of having more content is canceled out by "mindless transcription."

4.  similar results were obtained even when the researchers explicitly instructed the students to avoid taking verbatim notes.

5.  longhand note takers still beat laptop note takers on recall one week later when participants were given a chance to review their notes before taking the recall test.

Reference:  Association for Psychological Science. Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension.  Retrieved from the web on 4/25/14 at

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