Longhand or electronic notes?


Founding Member
Interesting article here.

Key points include:

"When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can," Mueller tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can't write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them."


note-taking can be categorized two ways: generative and nongenerative. Generative note-taking pertains to "summarizing, paraphrasing, concept mapping," while nongenerative note-taking involves copying something verbatim.


the students who used laptops typed significantly more words than those who took notes by hand. When testing how well the students remembered information, the researchers found a key point of divergence in the type of question. For questions that asked students to simply remember facts, like dates, both groups did equally well. But for "conceptual-application" questions, such as, "How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?" the laptop users did "significantly worse."

Until very recently, I was a longhand note-taker, using my fountain pen to slow down my writing deliberately so that I could read it, and think about what I was writing, coupled with a yellow legal pad (I love them). However, I've started using my laptop in meetings, together with One Note. I don't know whether I prefer longhand out of habit, or because I retain the information better that way.



Founding Member
When I was still in the situation where taking notes was an issue, I didn't have a mechanical method. HAD to use longhand. So I have no comparison.


Staff member
Mechanically typing out notes does little for memory. I know a lot about the topic of memory, which is one of the reasons I created The Mind Tavern!

Even if you highlight a book, and then review those highlights, you con yourself. You have recognition of each highlight and say to yourself, "I know that." But you don't. You recognise it. But in most cases you cannot recall it given a prompt. There is a huge difference between recognition and recall.

So, when you type out notes you are a bit like highlighting in a book. Reviewing those notes still doesn't do a great deal for memory.