Should You Take Notes on Paper or on a Computer? – College Info Geek
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Should You Take Notes on Paper or on a Computer? – College Info Geek

Should you take your notes on a computer or
should you stick to a paper notebook? If you’re watching this video you’re probably looking
for ways to take more efficient notes in class and also make those notes easier to study
later. So, which method is the best for both of those? On the one hand, taking notes on
a computer is, in most cases, a lot faster than writing them down by hand. You can also
go back and add things to already written notes, reformat things easily, and as an added
benefit you can sync things to different devices if you’re using an app like Evernote. That
way you can study notes on your phone or any other device you have with you. But, on the
other hand, when you take your notes on paper, you have a lot more flexibility. You can draw
arrows and notes, make symbols a lot easier, and for math notes, it’s hands down a better
method. Also, there are some research findings that actually speak in favor of paper notes
and those are what I want to cover in this video.
The study, which you can read more about if you go to the companion blog post for this
video, found that students who take their notes on a computer tend to write an average
of 310 words per lecture. On the other hand, students who wrote on paper, took notes at
an average of 173 words. The study also found that students who took their notes on paper
were more readily able to recall what they had learned about a half an hour after the
lecture. The conclusion that the researchers came to was that students who take their notes
on laptops were more apt to just record verbatim what was said in the lecture. While students
who took their notes on paper were actually recording what they were learning and creating
new conclusions on the fly. Now my last video on note-taking systems I
talked about a system called the flow method of note-taking. This system was created by
Scott Young and it’s based on a principle he created called Holistic Learning. Holistic
Learning basically means taking points of information that may be unrelated, making
a giant web of them, and making new conclusions out of that information. The foundational
idea behind Holistic Learning is to learn it once. Learn the lecture material while
you’re in class by creating your own version of it in your notes. This is the point I want
to get at in this video. Whether or not you choose to take your notes on a computer or
paper, you need to be deliberate about learning, as well as you can, in class through the way
you take your notes. Think of it this way. When your professor
presents a new concept in class, your brain interprets the data in two different ways.
It sees the syntax of the phrase or the word that was said, the letters and the way the
words are arranged in the sentence, but it also sees the meaning behind it. So if your
professor says that, “Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves.” Your brain sees the sentence and
the letters that make it up, the syntax, but it also sees two different concepts, eucalyptus
leaves and koala bears, and connects them together.
Now when you’re recording your notes on the computer it can be really easy to just slip
into the mindset of recording every single thing that was said. When you do this, you’re
only paying attention to the syntax which means that, later on you have to go back and
relearn the concepts. People who take notes on paper are more apt to look at the concepts
as they’re presented and learn them right away. This is because they’re not using so
much brain power on recording every little detail in the lecture. If you choose to take
your notes on a computer, be deliberate about learning the concepts as they’re presented.
Don’t be a transcription machine. Or, if you find that the temptation to just mindlessly
record notes on your computer is too great, try switching to paper. After you’ve taken
some notes on paper, you can use an app on your phone to record them and store them in
Evernote. Not only will this give you access to your notes wherever you have your phone,
but it also makes the text of your notes searchable as long as your handwriting isn’t crap.
So, that’s it for this video. The takeaway here is just to be deliberate about learning
the concepts that are presented in class as they’re being presented instead of just trying
to record them all. If you don’t do this, you’re just creating a lot more study time
for yourself after class. Hey, thanks for watching my video. If you
liked it, share it with a friend or give it a like. You’re making the internet a better
place by adding a number to a picture of a thumb. Yeah. If you want to get more videos
every single week on being a better student, becoming more productive, and hacking your
studies then hit the subscribe button which I’ll point out right about now. If you missed
last week’s video, it’s over the best note taking systems out there. Click the moving
picture underneath that to watch it. If you want to get links to the study I talked about
in this video, click the orange logo to go to the companion blog post for this episode.
Also, if you want to get a free chapter of my book when it comes out click that button.
Lastly, if you’ve got ideas you want to share for new video or just want to connect, hit
me up on Twitter or leave a comment.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “Should You Take Notes on Paper or on a Computer? – College Info Geek

  1. Can you make a video on Evernote 2016? Or even OneNote 2016 – when I look for these videos they're all ike 2-3 years old which ignores many of the new updates.

  2. Another great thing about using paper is that you are forced to write legible and readable notes. It actually helps my handwriting get better and helps me focus on the important points of a lecture, since that's all I write down. Anyways, If you have bad handwriting like me, I would recommend trying paper if you're looking to improve it.

  3. Ah vintage Thomas, he seems shaky and nervous in this video… haha!

    In a class I have right now, our professor has us do readings for homework, and then for class he lectures on the assigned readings. Because of this, I like to take notes on computer, and print them out. That way, when he adds to the readings in the lecture, I don't have to worry about erasing or making my writing even messier, I just print out the notes, and write on the margins! 🙂
    Otherwise for other classes, I do use hand-written, but I just wanted to vouch for computer notes.

  4. I guess something like an surface Pro might be a good middle ground between slowing down, being able to type, draw and sync your notes.

  5. Great video!

    But just to be clear, it's not just "some" findings. It's every study done on the subject . There are absolutely zero studies showing that typing notes is anywhere near as good as hand-writing them for comprehension, absorption and long-term retention.

    If writing by hand is difficult for you, I sympathize, but do it anyway. You can always audio record the lecture and flesh out your notes as an after-class review, plus you'll get better at it as you go.

    As a teacher, I've seen a real difference since I banned the typing of notes from my classrooms. I myself never type notes unless I know the meeting I'm in is total bullshit, designed to mask bureaucratic inertia and/or reinforce administrative hierarchy. Then, I reach for my laptop.

  6. I have been thinking about buying a stylus pen so I can digitally write my notes on a tablet. I have a large 2 -n-1 laptop and the smart companion pen is pricey. So I thought about getting a separate smaller Samsung tablet & s-pen which will be easier to handwrite my notes electronically. Apple products are out of my price range. Does anyone have a tablet to recommend? As well as note taking apps? Or even helpful YT videos about note taking on a tablet?

  7. what if you're taking notes on a surface or iPad pro, you still have the freedom of handwritten notes and not wasting paper

  8. Hi Thomas, how should I study computer programming? Of course, I need to type at the keyboard in order to run and test my code, but how can I effectively LEARN programming topics? What is the best strategy? Should I read paper books, while taking notes by hand – and only use the computer to, again, run and test my code? Or not: all this wastes time and the best thing to do is read and take notes "on the screen"? Could you, please, comment about this? Thanks!

  9. I prefer computerized note because it is more environmental friendly since papers are made of trees 🙂 However I always prepare few pieces of papers in my bags just in case something wrong with my computer

  10. Nope. My brain does not see the syntax. Which is partly what makes note taking difficult for kinesthetic and visual learners.

  11. take them with your off hand and you will do better, and translate them into a foreign language afterwards and you will make the notes even more effective. Not to mention the fact that not only are you just typing the words you hear instead of processing them but you are putting a physical barrier between you and the speaker, one with a glowing screen that draws the eye at that.

  12. In my case, I tend to write my notes first on a paper then type it on my computer. Time consuming, yeah, but it works the best for me. Plus, writing and then typing it makes it more likely to stick. 🙂

  13. Would writing your own interpretations of a lesson on paper while recording the lesson on audio or video be a good way to combine both aspects of each style of note-taking? I usually write what I can get in the lesson on my paper notes and rely on recordings to flesh them out.

  14. I prefer to write with a fountain pen during class, then digitally scan them into my collection, where I will sort and add to the pdf's

  15. I've always wondered if not taking notes is somehow more efficient. By not expending resources trying to jot down what the professor said, you can pay more attention to the concepts while you're there.

    Of course, this is balanced out by not having notes later on to study from. XD
    I don't think I ever actually looked back at my notes though unless it was for worked-out examples.

  16. LOVE the videos and tips, though I find the music in the background distracting, is it a part of a learning experiment you might be having or supposed to help us focus better? Curious.

  17. I usually write notes in class, go home then type it up because they are easy to edit and and add stuff to. Then, I print, highlight, then lastly write it out again but even more summarised.

  18. Man, it's too bad this wouldn't have really applied to my engineering courses, since we typically had to copy all the notes down verbatim, and it was almost never presented in the form of sentences or phrases, just diagrams and numbers. So sadly, it was more similar to transcribing every word and then going home to actually absorb it. Interesting though!

  19. I know this is an older video and I'm a new subscriber as of yesterday, but I was curious about your thoughts on taking notes on a tablet like on an iPad Pro or Surface Pro?

  20. At the end of the 2nd year almost here I have I think made 3 different evolutions, I mostly use my new 2nd gen iPad Pro 12.7, I use one note, goodnotes and notability and my main tools. Most of my initial assignments and forms are hand written and they also need to be actually submitted, along with the typed assignment. Also any group projects and tutorials also need to be uploaded in hand written forms. We use a lot of PDF and I can just drop them into notability and make notes and highlight on they fly. But I still print out all my course text materials and put them into a 2 ring binder and I have a blank paged note book. I use just a basic led pencil to make notes and work up any task lists and notes. I can erase mistakes and add in any post it notes from class, it's I need to I can actually take a picture with my tablet and send it into class

  21. I love taking notes, I learn faster. Also, I type faster but that just won't work. I get my text materials emailed to me and I must print it out and read and write to really get the most out of it.

  22. I am going into grade 11, I have goals to become an engineeer, I get good grades but havent tried yet in shcool. This year I am going all out from now on. I think in sujects other than math I am going to write out my notes in class, then each night type them out. Wish me luck.

  23. Solution: buy the Surface Pro from Microsoft. You can get the surface pen and write your notes on a screen. Then you can get all the perks of using a computer by moving things around later or deleting and adding things while still getting the perks of writing such as remembering the kecture better

  24. I like typing for the fact because it's centralized, but mostly because I can type a lot faster than I can write. If I try writing my notes on paper I usually will fall behind.

  25. I read something before, research said that taking note on paper will help you to remember it. Idk if it's accurate or not bcs eventough I always take notes on paper on every subject, a few minutes after, I already forgot about it. Or maybe it's because I'm in rush on taking notes bcs I don't wanna be left behind with what the teacher taught

  26. Or you can use Microsoft OneNote with a PC with a touchscreen and write your notes using a pen. OneNote acts like paper in that you can write anywhere on the page.

  27. I preferred handwriting because I wasn't able to get the symbols I needed for math and chemistry quickly, but I also needed computer notes because my teacher uploaded the powerpoints before class that we could type on, which saved a lot of time. I decided to buy a Surface pro (you could also use an iPad and apple pencil) to handwrite over powerpoint slides, and it's really the best of both worlds. I can handwrite my notes, use arrows, draw pictures, etc., but if I need to I can easily type some things in to save time, I can include pictures of the board, use graph paper or lined, and I've even done shared notes so that my friends and I can all add information to one notebook so no one misses anything. I can also pull out my phone and study my notes when I have a few minutes to spare 😀

  28. I'd hands down take notes on a device if it was exactly like writing in a notebook. Applications like One Note or Evernote are extremely confusing, they all hurt my eyes just to look at them. I see other people using them and I don't even have to do anything to get confused. And then I get lost, distracted, and anxious.

  29. I think in some of my lessons typing my notes is a lot easier bit im just so used to having all my notes on paper. And i cant go printing every slide. So im kind of confused rigth now

  30. Some reasons that note-taking by hand is superior:

    1) You're analyzing the info while you record it, as you mentioned.

    2) You're getting triple long-term memory imprints from writing by hand: There's the analysis that you use to decide what to write, the physical process of writing it, and then the visual feedback from writing. That's why the info goes in and stays in.

    3) It's not just long-term memory retention that improves with hand-written notes. It's also *comprehension* of the information that improves as well. Again, that's from the analysis that goes into selecting what information to record and how.

    4) As you said, with computers, you tend to record data verbatim. But the reason that's bad is literally a feature of touch typing: Everyone is taught when learning touch typing not to think about what they're typing, but simply to record whatever they're seeing or hearing. And what you're doing there is accessing short-term, not long-term memory.

    I used to train data entry operators in methods to improve their speed and accuracy, and it all hinged on improving the brain's ability to access short-term memory. I used to tell my students, "Don't think about what you see. Just let your fingers type what your eyes see." I considered my training a success if a former student came up to me and said, "I just typed 8000 images, and I can only remember 5 of them."

    And even then, the ones they remembered were things that engaged their long-term memory: A name like a celebrity's, a street name similar to their own, an unintentionally humorous entry–things like that. If something didn't engage their memory, it was let go of after the next image came into view. This improved their speed and accuracy.

    Same thing with notes on a computer. You're not connecting to long-term memory with it, only short-term, and that's why the notes go into the vapor.

  31. I always take notes on paper, I just find studying off of a laptop very difficult and easy to distract myself to open the internet or watch movies.
    Also, I hate the sound of 10 students typing on their keyboard in the middle of a lecture.

  32. eventually our brain is gonna analyse information in the same way no matter whether we prefer paper or not. whatever you choose make sure to fall in love with it and it might take few days to adapt any new style so you need to have a little patience for that. I am gonna try tablets now on even though its new for me. i need to take almost 70 to 80 pages notes everyday since I am preparing for an exam which requires really vast information.

  33. I hate typing notes because I write way faster than typing. I really think you should get an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil. It would help you so much.

  34. i say do both, on paper if you can't access a laptop, and laptop if you could.
    If on laptop first, review by writing it on paper, using images and icons, for support
    if on paper first, try to type in details and thoughts and to back it up.
    in the end, you have two source to review from and one could actually support the other 😀

  35. I am a Spanish Speaker and I am learning right now English I want to say this video was excellent, because it helps me a lot to understand the point I wanted to hear about it.

  36. The problem with this is for some courses that actually just require memorization like my primatology course. The professor explicitly said that he says a lot of things that are not on the slides and they are details that will be on the test. So if I just write general concept I will miss all that information and do poorly on the test…this is why students need to learn to listen to the prof and vary the method depending on what kind of course your taking

  37. Could you please do a video about handwritten notes on a device, comparing that to pen and paper and retention results 🙂

  38. My fellow programming students take notes on laptops and only few of them can take notes in code.

    if (student.isProgrammer)
    laptop.notes = !( learnToCode );

    Do not take notes on laptops, if you are a programmer or you will never learn to code.

  39. I think the main issue in this Typing Vs Handwriting debate is a matter of behavior.

    Those who are typing usually become what you said: a transcription machine. While writing (either by typing or by hand), the quality of information should prevail over the quantity of words. If people can think to process/digest the information before resuming it in a few words while handwriting, I think the same can be done with typing. The important thing is to avoid becoming into a transcription machine.

  40. According to me writing with hand is much better then computer as a man can learn any topic in short time and customise it as he/ she likes to do .. in handwritten notes a person can add sticky notes , improves handwriting, and a person has a life long memory …
    If you agree then do like..

  41. I love the versatility of of online notes, but I do understand the research behind handwriting them.

    It’s so much easier to edit or organize on a computer too but, agreeably, it does tend to become a matter of making things look nice and not actually drawing conclusions or making connections.

    I hate that I’m wasting time writing both my english class agendas and assignments in my notebook and on an online notebook. Mostly I do this because I have a hybrid class. I take only two classes a week and there is always an online component due another day. I need to have the notebook but if I have a task online or want to link it to something online I just feel I need to make a to do list online as as a somewhat official record.

  42. Back in the 80s as a student, I would take my notes in shorthand. Later in college when computers were first coming out, I took notes by computer. I liked both ways. But what I found best was going over my notes afterwards and creating mind maps (a strategy I learned from the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading course) and linking the information in a more organized fashion. That created a visual image that stayed in my mind. Even decades later I still remember my mind map I created on the integumentary system. It's as clear today in my mind as it was back then.

  43. I think the best way to study is to take very detailed notes in class, then get home and summarize the lesson in your own words. This method teaches yourself, and I find it very efficient.

  44. I like the idea of scanning handwritten notes to an app. I have an iPhone is there an app you suggest that I can use to upload all my handwritten notes so I can consolidate all my work into one place and have them with me on the go?

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