• Race to a Cure Authors

Taking Notes on Paper vs Digitally

The purpose of taking notes is to capture information on a topic. It is an extremely vital skill, not only in formal education, but in our day to day lives.

For students, they have many opportunities to practice this skill with a pen and paper during lectures or lessons; however, as technology evolves, note taking methods change as well.

Recently, digital note taking has made a large impact on students for being easily accessible, customizable, and convenient. Although, despite the obvious benefits of virtual notes, some argue that handwritten notes are considered to be superior for retaining information. Utilized to their full capacity, both two methods can allow students to create the best quality reference materials yet.


One of the main reasons that handwritten notes are considered to be better than typing is because the purpose of writing notes is to summarize information.

Although typing allows for the production of more words, this is due to the note-taker being more likely to take verbatim rather than summarizing the lesson. Writing down the entire lesson word for word does not necessarily mean that the note-taker will then have an exceptional level of understanding of the content. Still, newer findings are quick to show that typing notes does not always have less of an impact on performance.

While taking notes by hand, the note-taker is more likely to put the lesson into their own words, moreover improving their comprehension on a topic. In that regard, a study found that those who took handwritten notes paid more attention to the content. Oppenheimer and Muller came to the conclusion that handwritten notes were better than typing in their journal The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. This sensational title led to most teachers adopting the idea that laptops should not be used to take notes. Another reason why paper notes are thought to be more superior is because this method presents less distractions. To counter however, this can be easily avoided by turning off notifications or by switching devices onto airplane mode.

Quality of Notes

In a study done by Morehead, K., Dunlosky, J., & Rawson, K. A, factual and conceptual learning were taken under consideration. Conceptual learning is important for gaining a deeper understanding of a topic while factual learning does not require a lot of comprehension.

Although those who took notes performed better on factual questions, there was no difference between both methods when completing conceptual questions. Typing verbatim is also not recommended while taking notes, however, laptop users did not have any more of a disadvantage than those who used longhand.

Lastly, the quality of someone’s notes is also an important factor. It is important to note that one’s quality of notes also depends heavily on the environment. Students should always consider adjusting their note taking method based on the content they are learning, and the quality of their lectures. For example, if the lecture topic is theory based, it would make sense to type the general idea of the topic so to easily review it at a later time.

Final Note

Both note taking options present their own advantages. Overall it’s up to the student to gain an understanding of the type of content they will be learning, evaluate the benefits of both methods, and to apply that into their note taking.

Resources for Future Reading:

Science Backed Links on Why Handwritten Notes Improve Your Memory

New Findings Inform the Laptop versus Longhand Note-Taking Debate

How to Take Notes | Science-Based Strategies to Earn Perfect Grades

Featured photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

Article Author: Idil Mohamed Gure

Article Editors: Olivia Ye, Victoria Huang