The Fall semester has begun, triggering an increasingly consequential question for students given the availability of technological resources for note-taking:
To TYPE or HANDWRITE Academic Notes?
There is no right answer for every person and every context. What works for one person, may not work for another. And what works for one course or assignment, may not work for another. Knowing yourself in each situation and the requirements of each course and assignment is key.
Whether you’re working on your dissertation, studying for an exam, or considering a manual or digital method of note-taking, storage, and archiving, we caution you not to reinvent the wheel, if a particular method already works well for you.
That said, if you’re still deciding between handwriting or typing notes, weighing mainly a factor of speed optimization, consider Baer (2014), “By slowing down the process of taking notes, you accelerate learning“.
Wait a minute! Slow down to accelerate???
Yes, it has to do with the brain! “When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated” (Baer, 2014). You mean… there is something unique about the act of slowing down and writing that automatically activates neural circuits?
Actually, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. In fact, it is what the slowing down of time makes possible. What are the affordances of time? What can you do by stretching out time? Research suggests that the learner should do something active and stimulating–that is, the opposite of copying, typing, transcribing, and rote memorizing new information.
Baer (2014) suggests that by getting off of the keyboard, and note-taking by hand, “you’ll have to look for representative quotes, summarize concepts, and ask questions about what you don’t understand.”
So… What’s the verdict?
Is it Best to TYPE or HANDWRITE Academic Notes?
The answer is to do something new with the information, to APPLY or SYNTHESIZE it. This is an active and actionable method that the slowing down of time by note-taking can accommodate, if not require.
Baer, D. Here’s why writing things out by hand makes you smarter. Business Insider. December 16, 2014.
By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow