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To Type or To Write

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Tea Vs Coffee. Cambridge Vs Oxford. Sciences Vs Humanities. These are some of the world’s
most hot debate topics. In the case of many students, there is another set of voices that dominates
their headspace: Handwritten Vs Typed notes. Surprisingly, not many people tilt heavily on
either side of the scale. From personal experience, the aesthetic of handwritten notes is a
delightful sight for the reader; however, the mobility provided by an easily accessible google
docs file for university notes is ludicrous to resist. As technology takes over, there is no denying
that typing is surpassing handwritten notes as a means of note-taking. This gives rise to a
variety of note-taking options for students.

Handwritten notes hold some undisputable cognitive benefits for the learner. Since students
cannot keep up with the speed of the lecturer, they tend to digest all the information that is
provided to them first. Consequently, they use their brain mechanics to consolidate the
information and write all that they have heard in a condensed summary. This enables better
short-term memory retention for the learner. Even though writing summaries has been proved as a
defunct revision technique, one cannot deny that while writing they are able to think about the
material at hand. A fascinating research conducted by Prof. Jean Luc Valey (University of
Marseille) and Prof. Anne Mangen (University of Stavanger) revealed that writing notes left
behind traces of the physical activity called the motor memory. This is another factor that leads
to better retention of information for the students.

Sometimes, there is nothing more pleasing than a set of handwritten notes. The exhilaration felt
while buying new office supplies. The smell of a new pack of loose-leaf. The crack of a
notebook’s spine. This creates more excitement for the learner; it gives them cues that it is time
to get down to business. Hence, their mind gradually walks into its workspace and is easily able
to focus on the task at hand. The intricate process of developing reading worthy notes is a craft
on its own. As a student myself, the sense of motivation brought by the purchase of new
stationery overpowers the procrastination that I feel.

On the other hand, the leverage provided by typed notes is fundamental to humans: speed. It can
be in the form of the higher speed of typing or the autocorrecting that can save plenty of time
editing the document. This enables them to capture more. Unlike the deterioration of handwritten
notes when writing speed is increased i.e. when students have to swiftly jot down notes, typed
notes have the same consistent style. When such notes need to be accessed later, typed notes tend
to be more legible than handwritten notes. Additionally, it is much easier to retrieve a typed
document than a notebook lost in piles and piles of books. No one likes to mess with dust after

Notes that capture finer details of the lecture are a byproduct of typing. Multiple pieces of research
conducted on comparing handwritten notes and typed notes have proven one fact, the word count
of the latter is always greater than the former. The benefit of making typed notes is the ability to
capture everything verbatim. This may mean that while those who are handwriting their notes
will usually pause before taking notes, they may lose some key information in the process as
their counterparts quickly type the notes. It further allows the students to easily add more
features to their notes like hyperlinks and complex diagrams which are otherwise not available
for those using pen and paper. This gives rise to another popular functionality of typed notes:
collaboration. Students of the same class can make one document where everyone adds
additional resources and makes amendments. This centralized document makes it easier for
everyone to have access to rich resources. It can also form a platform for discussion. The list of
benefits of a centralized document is inexhaustible.

Overall, it all comes down to personal experience. I try to derive the benefits of both worlds just
by typing. The benefits of summarising what the lecturer is speaking about can also be applied
whilst making notes on a computer. As someone who is involved in anti-deforestation
campaigns, using paper has always been very difficult for me. Over my schooling years, I was
known to be stingy with the amount of space I used while writing notes because of the “pain it
caused to the trees”. As a result, my notes were highly cramped and teachers were always
irritated by the grueling sight I presented. Books are known to take a lot of space. In such a case,
being a minimalist does not help. Despite my displeasure at the thought of wasting paper, it does
not discount my love for a hardback journal – this is my way of paying homage to the dying art
of handwritten notes.


May, C. (2014, June 3). A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop.

Anderson, S. (2017, September 1). Handwritten notes vs Typed notes: Is there a difference?

The University of Stavanger. (2011, January 24). Better learning through handwriting.
ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 22, 2020 from

Annabel, Z. (2014, January 16). 4 Ways Typing Is Better Than Writing By Hand (Also Known
As “Handwriting”). Retrieved November 23, 2020, from

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