Write or Type

In our careers as student’s many of us have experienced that one class taught by a professor with a no-laptop policy. I myself have had several professors who started off the semester by explaining that laptops will not be allowed in their classroom. The reasoning is always the same. Studies have shown that students who take notes by hand are more engaged, have a better understanding of the material, and will ultimately do better in their course. However, I have never had a professor actually explain how this claim was found, and how it was psychologically tested.

Typed Notes
Hand Written Notes

I did some research and found a study where the researchers wanted to test people’s knowledge of a TED Talk after taking notes on a computers or by hand. The participant’s knowledge was tested using factual and conceptual questions. The results of the study revealed very little difference between mode of note taking and correctness on the factual questions (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). However, those using laptops scored significantly lower on the conceptual questions than did those taking notes by hand (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). This difference was attributed to tendency to record verbatim notes when using the laptop. The researchers felt that taking more notes when using the laptop might have only been detrimental because there was no time allotted for review, and that if given the opportunity to review they would have performed equally well as those taking notes by hand on the conceptual questions (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). After further tests, the significantly lower scores of those using computers persisted.

Factual Questions
Conceptual Questions

Their experiments examined the construct of performance on test taking using two measures. They look at factual recall and conceptual understanding of the material. Learning has been shown to be facilitated by two main processes: the encoding process which is the act of note taking and the external storage process which is the act of reviewing material (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). So, despite hand-written note taking coming out on top in all three experiments they performed, the biggest thing I learnt is that the type of test and the way a professor will test your understanding should help determine how you take your notes. Thus multiple choice mid-terms often require factual regurgitation and this seems to be less affected by the medium in which we take notes.

Their use of factual and conceptual questions and multiple trials with different levels of time for review expands the construct of “learning” and provides more robust results that are more generalizable to the naturalistic learning.


Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (January 01, 2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25, 6, 1159–68.

By: 260583573