We finally found some scientific evidence to support our love of handwritten notes. A study conducted by UCLA shows that when you take notes by hand, you write down fewer words, but the words you write are more relevant and important to the concept at hand. There are even graphs to prove it. The study split an intro-level microbiology course taught by the same professor into two groups. One class took notes on a keyboard and one by hand. While we have super-personal, lovey-dovey feelings about this, there’s also a very practical application that may change the way you study, not to mention the notes you take in meetings. We’re all about simple ways to get a leg up.
As explained by Joseph Stromberg at Vox, “When done with pen and paper, that act involves active listening, trying to figure out what information is most important, and putting it down. When done on a laptop, it generally involves robotically taking in spoken words and converting them into typed text.” You might chalk this up to the distractibility factor of using a device connected to the entire web, but this controlled study shows even when you’re not cruising Facebook, it’s still just far less effective.
The study also shows that reviewing your notes from class on a laptop can actually make your test scores slightly worse — ouch. The idea is that when you write by hand you are far less likely to take down the lecture verbatim and more likely to paraphrase what is important in your own words, and make graphs, drawings of ideas you’ve connected, thereby making handwritten notes a far more interactive experience that requires active listening. Digital notes vs. hand-written is sort of like data-entry vs. journaling. One is an expression of the information you’ve collected and one is just rote copying — with your Pinterest feed in the background. Hey, we were in college once too.
Do you think this will change the way you take notes? We’re definitely going to keep pen and paper in our meetings.