Taking Notes by Hand Is Better Than by Laptop

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard - Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking

Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

Here’s a longer article about it.

Reminds me of the argument for books vs kindle. Books have a much better ‘textile’ feel, as well as the ability to control them, turn the page, affect how the pages look, plus they have different layers, different ‘places’, whereas on laptops or iPods, it’s all the same screen.

I do find taking notes on the laptop works way better for me. It’s much faster, I can read it anywhere(synced across platforms), and I usually memorize them with mnemonics later anyway.


Part of long hand being superior than laptop is, I suspect, an aspect of an environmental factor in the memory process.

Writing is also harder to do than typing. Typically as typists there’s little feedback and we probably observe the screen rather than the keyboard, and often neither. Writing notes by hand is slower and requires instant editing to miss out less important phrases that we would normally type verbatim, keeping “neat” is a concern as we write and we have to pay attention to the position on the page, the clarity of the script, we see the words we’ve written before and consider what comes next. With writing notes there might be quick little diagrams and arrows to other related concepts. There’s so much other ambient environmental factors than someone who just throws everything down into writer or word.

Someone who is thoughtful and considered in their laptop note taking could, I’m sure, perform at least as equally well as a long hand note taker. I’m thinking it might be possible in a lecture to take photographs of presented material too and store everything at once in Evernote.

Bateman, do you do anything to focus more on the note taking or have note taking strategies?

I have specific criteria for what I would note down, I note it down concisely and it’s written the way I think of it. Very memorable for me.


The laptop has numerous other distractions, so in a way, it’s inferior when it comes to learning.

But essentially, the ideas posed are the same. Only the technology differs. If one can harness the distractions, then it’s pretty much no difference.

“The medium is the message”’ - McLuhan