When The Best Way To Take Notes Is By Hand: Benefits Of Handwritten Notes

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You may be thinking, ‘Why bother taking notes by hand when I can just type them up on my laptop or tablet?’

While technology has certainly made our lives easier in many ways, there are still some benefits to good old-fashioned pen and paper.

It has been shown that taking handwritten notes can actually improve your retention and understanding of information. So why is handwriting so effective? For one, it forces you to actively engage with the material.

You can’t just mindlessly copy down what the speaker or teacher is saying – you have to process the information and decide what’s important enough to write down. This process of filtering and summarizing information helps you better understand and remember it.

Additionally, handwriting is a slower process than typing, which can actually be a good thing.

It gives your brain more time to process the information and make connections between different ideas.

Key Takeaways

  • Handwritten notes improve retention and understanding of information by engaging different parts of the brain and creating a cognitive connection between writing and content.
  • Effective note-taking strategies include summarizing main ideas, synthesizing multiple sources, organizing notes with headings and bullet points, and using colors and highlighting to make important information stand out.
  • When deciding between paper and digital note-taking, individual needs and preferences should be considered, as handwritten notes may be more effective for memory retention and focus, while digital notes may be more practical for easy search and organization.
  • Note-taking tips include using abbreviations, breaking down notes into smaller sections, using different colors or highlighting, and considering the effectiveness of handwritten vs. digital notes for certain types of learning.

The Science Behind Handwritten Notes

Now, let’s dive into the science behind why taking handwritten notes is actually better for your brain than typing them on a computer.

Research has shown that the act of handwriting engages different parts of the brain than typing does. When you write by hand, you activate the motor cortex, which is responsible for hand movements. This, in turn, activates the sensory cortex, which processes tactile sensations like the feel of the pen on paper. These two areas of the brain work together to create a cognitive connection between the physical act of writing and the content being written.

On the other hand, typing does not require the same level of cognitive processing. With typing, the motor cortex is not as involved, and the sensory cortex is not activated in the same way. This means that there may be less of a connection between what you are typing and what you are trying to remember.

Additionally, typing can be more distracting than handwriting, as it is easier to switch between tasks and get sidetracked by notifications or other digital distractions.

Overall, it seems that the cognitive benefits of handwriting vs typing make handwriting a better choice for note-taking.

a woman writing notes on her notebook
A woman writing notes in her notebook

Active Listening and Engagement

When it comes to active listening and engagement, there are several key points to consider. First, processing information is a critical component of effective note-taking and retention. You must be able to understand and interpret the information before you can summarize and synthesize it into a meaningful format.

Second, summarizing and synthesizing require you to distill complex information into a concise and coherent summary, which can be challenging but essential for retaining information.

Finally, improving memory retention and recall is critical for effective note-taking and engagement, and there are several strategies you can use to enhance your memory, such as repetition and visual aids.

Processing Information

As you jot down notes by hand, your brain actively processes and organizes the information, creating a mental map that helps with comprehension. This is because when you write by hand, you engage in an active process that involves selecting and synthesizing important information, rather than just copying down everything you hear.

This cognitive processing helps to enhance your understanding of the material and improves your ability to recall it later on. In contrast, typing notes on a computer or other device can lead to a more passive process, as you’re more likely to simply transcribe what you hear without actively engaging with the material.

Additionally, research has shown that taking notes by hand allows for better retention of information and improved long-term memory, as the act of physically writing something down helps to solidify it in your mind. So, if you want to optimize your note-taking strategies and enhance your cognitive processing, consider picking up a pen and paper next time you need to take notes.

Summarizing and Synthesizing

By combining and simplifying information through summarizing and synthesizing, you can create a clear and coherent mental map of the material, allowing for easier comprehension and recall.

Effective strategies for summarizing include identifying the main idea of each passage or section and condensing it into a single sentence. This forces you to focus on the most important information and eliminates unnecessary details, making it easier to remember the material.

Synthesizing involves combining multiple sources of information to create a new understanding or perspective. This can be done by identifying common themes or patterns across sources and integrating them into a coherent whole.

Note-taking techniques that promote synthesis include creating concept maps or diagrams that show how different pieces of information are connected. This helps to see the big picture and how everything fits together, making it easier to understand and remember the material.

By using these effective strategies, you can take better notes and improve your comprehension and recall of the material.

Improving Memory Retention and Recall

Improving memory retention and recall is key to retaining important information and being able to recall it later on. This can be a game-changer for academic success and overall productivity. While note-taking techniques have evolved over the years, there’s no denying the fact that taking notes by hand remains one of the most effective ways to improve memory retention and recall. Here’s why:

  • Handwriting engages different cognitive functions than typing, allowing you to process information more deeply and retain it better.
  • Writing by hand allows you to better organize your notes and put them into your own words, which reinforces understanding and retention.
  • Handwritten notes are more difficult to edit and revise, which forces you to be more selective about what you write down and promotes active listening and engagement.

Incorporating handwritten notes into your study routine can make a significant difference in your ability to recall information and perform well on exams. So next time you’re tempted to type out your notes, consider the benefits of taking them by hand instead.

a guy doing handwritten notes from his lecture
A guy doing handwritten notes from his lecture

The Benefits of Handwriting

Hey, did you know that jotting down notes by hand can actually boost your memory retention? It’s like a mental workout!

Research shows that when you write notes by hand, you’re more likely to remember the information compared to typing on a digital device. This is because writing by hand engages multiple areas of the brain, including the motor cortex, which helps with muscle memory.

Additionally, writing by hand allows for more personalization and creativity in note-taking. You can use different colors, underline, circle, or draw diagrams to help you visualize and remember key information.

Handwriting also slows down the note-taking process, allowing you to process and prioritize the information as you go. So next time you have an important meeting or lecture, consider taking notes by hand to boost your memory retention and creativity.

Practical Tips for Effective Note-Taking

Now that you know the benefits of handwriting, let’s talk about practical tips for effective note-taking. Whether you’re a student, a professional, or just someone who likes to take notes (even while sitting under a tree), there are some simple techniques you can use to make sure your notes are organized and easy to understand.

First, consider using abbreviations and symbols to save time and space. For example, instead of writing out the word ‘and,’ you could use the symbol ‘&.’ This can help you take notes more quickly and efficiently, and it can also make your notes easier to read later on.

Additionally, consider using abbreviations for common words or phrases that come up frequently in your notes. This can be especially useful if you’re taking notes in a fast-paced environment where you need to keep up with a lot of information at once.

To further enhance your note-taking skills, consider using organization techniques such as bullet points and headings. Breaking down your notes into smaller, more manageable sections can help you stay focused and ensure that you don’t miss anything important.

Additionally, consider using different colors or highlighting important information to make it stand out.

By using these techniques, you can create a set of notes that is not only easy to understand but also visually appealing and engaging.

And if all that was too much to read, here is a simplified (bullet list) for note-taking tips:

  • Save time and space with abbreviations and symbols.
  • Use abbreviations for common words or phrases.
  • Break down your notes into smaller, more manageable sections with bullet points and headings.
  • Use different colors or highlighting to make important information stand out.

When Digital Notes May Be More Appropriate

Sometimes it’s more practical to take digital notes, especially when you need to easily search and organize your notes. With digital notes, you can easily type in keywords and find the exact information you need in seconds.

Additionally, digital notes can be easily backed up and stored in the cloud, ensuring that you never lose your notes. However, there are also some cons to digital note-taking.

For instance, typing notes on a keyboard can be distracting and may prevent you from fully engaging with the material. Furthermore, digital notes may be less effective in terms of memory retention compared to handwritten notes.

Therefore, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of digital vs. paper notes and decide when to switch from paper to digital note-taking based on your individual needs and preferences.

Here’s why handwritten notes are beneficial


One reason for this is that handwriting requires more cognitive processing than typing, as it involves the integration of visual, motor, and cognitive skills.

When we write by hand, we are more likely to summarize, synthesize, and rephrase information in our own words, which enhances our understanding and retention of the material. In contrast, typing encourages verbatim transcription, which can result in shallow processing and less effective learning.

So, the next time you’re in class or a meeting, consider reaching for pen and paper instead of your laptop or tablet. Not only will you be more actively engaged in the material, but you’ll also be doing your brain a favor by improving your memory and comprehension.

Remember, taking handwritten notes may take a little more effort, but the benefits are well worth it.

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.