Want to remember more from your lectures? Maybe it’s time to put the laptop away and crack out your old notebook.

Many students prefer taking notes on laptops versus by hand because digital is just so much more efficient, but that efficiency may actually be a problem.

Researchers at Princeton University and the University of California took a look at how students take notes on laptops versus by hand and found that, generally, students who take notes with their laptops are more likely to write down what the lecturer is saying word-for-word. In contrast, writing things out by hand takes longer, so students must rephrase what the instructor says and convert it to short notes they can understand at a later time. This active listening creates a deeper connection with the material – which may explain taking notes by hand correlated with better scores on test questions later on in the study.

Writing things out by hand takes longer, so students must rephrase what the instructor says and convert it to short notes they can understand at a later time.

Interested in switching up how you take notes? Check out our previous blog post Try something new: the Cornell note taking method.

 

It should also come as no surprise, but laptops may also become more distracting than useful in classes. A study published in Journal of Computing in Higher Education found that students who used their laptops during class, including having access to web browsing and social media sites, had more trouble remembering details from the lecture than students who kept their laptop shut for the duration of the lecture.

If you do like using your laptop for lectures, however, all is not lost. Many apps are available that can block specific websites and programs from running for set periods of time, so you can only use your laptop for taking notes.

Students who used their laptops during class, including having access to web browsing and social media sites, had more trouble remembering details from the lecture than students who kept their laptop shut for the duration of the lecture.

Regardless of your note-taking method, always ensure you are engaging with the material you are taking notes on, put concepts into your own words, and ask questions when you don’t understand. Future test-taking you will appreciate the extra effort!

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