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Attention Students! Here’s Why You Should Take Notes the Old Fashion Way

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The debate of the best way to take notes has concludedcome to a conclusion. In a study conducted by Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of UCLA, they uncovered what way of taking notes has a greater effect on retaining information. It turns out that even the best technology doesn’t compare to writing notes by hand. The difference it has on the way students absorb information is quite significant.

Muller and Oppenheimer found that those who type out notes during a lecture do so verbatim. Doing so may seem like the best way to get all the facts to refer back to later. But the research shows notes taken word-for-word didn’t correspond with students retaining the information better. Muller explains to NPR, “The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective.” Even though handwritten notes don’t get the lecture word for word, that extra processing of the material benefited students.

The study was broken up into three parts. In the first study, college students watched a variety of TED Talks and took notes on either a laptop or in a notebook. Students who used laptops typed more words than those who used pen and paper. Both groups were then tested on the talks. When it came to questions about facts, both groups did equally well. However, when it came to more detailed questions, students who took notes via handwriting did significantly better.  

In the second study, those using laptops were asked not to write notes verbatim. Despite being asked not to, students on laptops instinctively wrote more words than those writing in a notebook. Muller and Oppenheimer found that the more words the students copied verbatim, the worse they performed on recall tests.

The third study took a different approach. This time, students were given a break between taking notes and being tested. Researchers wanted to see giving students time to review their notes before the test would have a different impact. More specifically, they were curious if laptop users would do better than in the previous two studies. Still, laptop users fell short of those who used a notebook. Mueller and Oppenheimer say, “This is suggestive evidence that longhand notes may have superior external storage as well as superior encoding functions.” As far as whether this research will persuade students to go back to pen and paper, time will only tell.

If you’re a little rusty on taking notes by hands, all you have to do is remember the five Rs.

  1. Record: During the lecture, pay attention to the most meaningful information and write it down as legibly as possible.
  2. Reduce: After the lecture, summarize the points you’ve written down using facts and keywords.
  3. Recite: Now that your notes are all cleared up, read them out loud without looking at the text. Note that you don’t have to recite them word for word. If it helps, use your own words instead.
  4. Reflect: What are your own opinions on the material presented to you during the lecture? If something is unclear, write down questions or come up with a counter debate to discuss with the professor or study group.
  5. Review: Before you move on to the next round of lecture notes, review your previous notes. Reread them to refresh your memory and then move on. Don’t take too much time studying the information you already understand. 

For extra help with comprehending classroom material, our Advanced Comprehension & Memory Course is the perfect solution. You’ll learn to understand both your notes and textbook material better and remember it longer so you can ace your next exam. Find out more today!

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