Note-taking battle: pen and paper vs. laptops

note taking 9-30 paper

When the semester started last spring, history professor Curtis Murphy made one thing quite clear: laptops were not to be used in his classes.

“I established a no-laptop policy for my classes last spring after hearing positive reports from my colleagues,” Murphy said.

With the advent of laptops, many students are finding it more convenient to take notes with their laptops in class. But is it really more effective than taking notes by hand? According to a study from Princeton University and the University of California it isn’t.

Going by the title “The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” the study claims that while students are able to type quickly enough to copy the lecture verbatim, they often miss out on the finer details.

“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,” the study’s abstract reads.

The temptation is clearly there. More and more students are taking notes with laptops because, as the study says, it allows them to copy the lecture down pretty much verbatim, which gives them more information in the long run.

- Advertisement -

It’s also quite a lot more expedient than taking notes with a pen and paper.

“If I can help it, a laptop’s usually what I use. I can’t keep up on paper,” said Jack Gelione, a student at UAA. “I mainly just listen through the most of it and write down the highlights, or ear-catchers that I hear out of it, and after the lecture, just connect the dots based on memory from the main points.”

Many students are able to use laptops or tablets efficiently for note-taking, but that hasn’t stopped many professors on campus from being cautious about it. Many no-laptop policies have been successful in keeping students more engaged.

Ultimately, it comes down to preference whether or not a student will take notes with a laptop or pen. However, the science and psychology behind it all provides a compelling reason for electronic note-takers to consider doing things the old-fashioned way.