Bookmarked Is handwriting better than typing for note taking? Surprisingly, it is not (by Donald Clark)

Donald Clark looks at what we know about whether handwriting is better than taking digital notes, and mentions 4 papers in that context. The 2014 “The pen is mightier than the keyboard” paper by Mueller and Oppenheimer, has been easily adopted in broader pubic conscience, probably as it fits neatly in a bias. I never bought into that because my own experience with 4 decades of handwritten notes, and 3 overlapping decades of taking digital notes did not bear that difference out. (I know, I know, ‘n=just me’ is no base for critique on a paper, but still) If anything, to me my speed and ease of making digital notes is more effective and less distracting (I can type blindly and without looking at the screen, but who can write blindly?). The key is what happens afterwards. Which is about active engagement with the notes I make. Hence the selected quote below, in which I would replace the final word learning with engagement.

The 2014 study has been replicated in 2019 by Morehead, Dunlosky and Rawson showing no difference at least, and the opposite at worst.
The 2022 paper by Voyer, Ronis, and Byers, “The effect of notetaking method on academic performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” “showed no effect of method of note taking on performance under controlled conditions. It considered 77 effect sizes from 39 samples in 36 articles, showing no effect on note taking approach.

It would seem that writing notes in your own words, and studying your notes, matter more than the methods used to write your notes. This makes sense, as the cognitive efforts involved in studying are likely to outweigh the initial method of capture. It is not note taking that matters but effortful learning.

Donald Clark