Should You Take Notes on Paper or on a Computer? – College Info Geek


Should you take your notes on a computer or
should you stick to a paper notebook? If you’re watching this video you’re probably looking
for ways to take more efficient notes in class and also make those notes easier to study
later. So, which method is the best for both of those? On the one hand, taking notes on
a computer is, in most cases, a lot faster than writing them down by hand. You can also
go back and add things to already written notes, reformat things easily, and as an added
benefit you can sync things to different devices if you’re using an app like Evernote. That
way you can study notes on your phone or any other device you have with you. But, on the
other hand, when you take your notes on paper, you have a lot more flexibility. You can draw
arrows and notes, make symbols a lot easier, and for math notes, it’s hands down a better
method. Also, there are some research findings that actually speak in favor of paper notes
and those are what I want to cover in this video.
The study, which you can read more about if you go to the companion blog post for this
video, found that students who take their notes on a computer tend to write an average
of 310 words per lecture. On the other hand, students who wrote on paper, took notes at
an average of 173 words. The study also found that students who took their notes on paper
were more readily able to recall what they had learned about a half an hour after the
lecture. The conclusion that the researchers came to was that students who take their notes
on laptops were more apt to just record verbatim what was said in the lecture. While students
who took their notes on paper were actually recording what they were learning and creating
new conclusions on the fly. Now my last video on note-taking systems I
talked about a system called the flow method of note-taking. This system was created by
Scott Young and it’s based on a principle he created called Holistic Learning. Holistic
Learning basically means taking points of information that may be unrelated, making
a giant web of them, and making new conclusions out of that information. The foundational
idea behind Holistic Learning is to learn it once. Learn the lecture material while
you’re in class by creating your own version of it in your notes. This is the point I want
to get at in this video. Whether or not you choose to take your notes on a computer or
paper, you need to be deliberate about learning, as well as you can, in class through the way
you take your notes. Think of it this way. When your professor
presents a new concept in class, your brain interprets the data in two different ways.
It sees the syntax of the phrase or the word that was said, the letters and the way the
words are arranged in the sentence, but it also sees the meaning behind it. So if your
professor says that, “Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves.” Your brain sees the sentence and
the letters that make it up, the syntax, but it also sees two different concepts, eucalyptus
leaves and koala bears, and connects them together.
Now when you’re recording your notes on the computer it can be really easy to just slip
into the mindset of recording every single thing that was said. When you do this, you’re
only paying attention to the syntax which means that, later on you have to go back and
relearn the concepts. People who take notes on paper are more apt to look at the concepts
as they’re presented and learn them right away. This is because they’re not using so
much brain power on recording every little detail in the lecture. If you choose to take
your notes on a computer, be deliberate about learning the concepts as they’re presented.
Don’t be a transcription machine. Or, if you find that the temptation to just mindlessly
record notes on your computer is too great, try switching to paper. After you’ve taken
some notes on paper, you can use an app on your phone to record them and store them in
Evernote. Not only will this give you access to your notes wherever you have your phone,
but it also makes the text of your notes searchable as long as your handwriting isn’t crap.
So, that’s it for this video. The takeaway here is just to be deliberate about learning
the concepts that are presented in class as they’re being presented instead of just trying
to record them all. If you don’t do this, you’re just creating a lot more study time
for yourself after class. Hey, thanks for watching my video. If you
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last week’s video, it’s over the best note taking systems out there. Click the moving
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in this video, click the orange logo to go to the companion blog post for this episode.
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22 thoughts on “Should You Take Notes on Paper or on a Computer? – College Info Geek

  1. Could you please do a video about handwritten notes on a device, comparing that to pen and paper and retention results 🙂

  2. My fellow programming students take notes on laptops and only few of them can take notes in code.

    if (student.isProgrammer)
    {
    laptop.notes = !( learnToCode );
    }

    Do not take notes on laptops, if you are a programmer or you will never learn to code.

  3. I think the main issue in this Typing Vs Handwriting debate is a matter of behavior.

    Those who are typing usually become what you said: a transcription machine. While writing (either by typing or by hand), the quality of information should prevail over the quantity of words. If people can think to process/digest the information before resuming it in a few words while handwriting, I think the same can be done with typing. The important thing is to avoid becoming into a transcription machine.

  4. According to me writing with hand is much better then computer as a man can learn any topic in short time and customise it as he/ she likes to do .. in handwritten notes a person can add sticky notes , improves handwriting, and a person has a life long memory …
    If you agree then do like..

  5. I love the versatility of of online notes, but I do understand the research behind handwriting them.

    It’s so much easier to edit or organize on a computer too but, agreeably, it does tend to become a matter of making things look nice and not actually drawing conclusions or making connections.

    I hate that I’m wasting time writing both my english class agendas and assignments in my notebook and on an online notebook. Mostly I do this because I have a hybrid class. I take only two classes a week and there is always an online component due another day. I need to have the notebook but if I have a task online or want to link it to something online I just feel I need to make a to do list online as as a somewhat official record.

  6. Back in the 80s as a student, I would take my notes in shorthand. Later in college when computers were first coming out, I took notes by computer. I liked both ways. But what I found best was going over my notes afterwards and creating mind maps (a strategy I learned from the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading course) and linking the information in a more organized fashion. That created a visual image that stayed in my mind. Even decades later I still remember my mind map I created on the integumentary system. It's as clear today in my mind as it was back then.

  7. I think the best way to study is to take very detailed notes in class, then get home and summarize the lesson in your own words. This method teaches yourself, and I find it very efficient.

  8. I like the idea of scanning handwritten notes to an app. I have an iPhone is there an app you suggest that I can use to upload all my handwritten notes so I can consolidate all my work into one place and have them with me on the go?

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