Which is more effective: Taking notes by hand or on your laptop?

Going back to school for your health care degree means that you’ll spend a lot of time sitting in class, taking notes from the instructor’s lectures.

Now that laptop computers are so widely available and inexpensive compared to their prices in the past, you may be tempted to take your notes on a laptop.

However, there are a few good reasons that you should consider handwriting your lecture notes instead.


If it seems like the convenience of taking notes on a laptop is too good to be true, you’re right.

While it is definitely more efficient to type notes then write them by hand, a recent study by researchers from Princeton University and the University of California – Los Angeles found that students have better memory of lectures when they take lecture notes by hand.


Writing notes longhand with pen and paper is more effective in helping students remember the lecture. This might have as much to do with listening skills as it does with the method of note taking.

The study authors found that students who opted to use laptops were more likely to attempt to transcribe the lecture notes verbatim, while those who took notes by hand were likely to paraphrase the lecture or put it into their own words.

The combined effort of translating concepts into their own words along with physically writing down the notes seems to make information easier to retain. Whether you’re pursuing a health care degree or a different degree, it’s essential to understand and remember as much from your classes as possible.


Another finding from the study was that students who took notes on a computer were less likely to perform well on a quiz one week after viewing a lecture. Some of the students were allowed to review their notes for 10 minutes before taking the quiz, while others were not.

The students who took their notes longhand and were allowed to briefly review them outperformed all other groups of students taking the quiz.


Students pursuing a health care degree or a degree in any other field benefit most from note taking strategies that allow them to interpret the information presented in a lecture compared to just writing it down word for word.

Writing notes in longhand form requires the student to prioritize the most important facts from a lecture and to guess which might be most useful later. This requires a higher level of cognitive processing that engages the brain and may assist in committing facts to memory.

If you want to be as successful as possible while you’re in school for your health care degree, you owe it to yourself and your future patients to use your study time wisely. You might want to consider ditching the laptop for lectures and bringing an old fashioned spiral notebook and pen instead.

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