Superlative notes bridge the gap from when you learn something to when you need it. Thus, learning the right and wrong ways to take notes sets you on the path to knowing what you need when you need it. And while effective note taking demands sharp eyes and keen ears, much of the magic is in your wrists, specifically the wrist of your writing hand!
The temptation to bring a laptop or tablet to class for note-taking (and possibly recreational) purposes has never been greater. But studies show that the pen Is mightier than the keyboard. Psychology researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer found that taking notes on electronic devices alone results in shallower processing, which in turn results in worse performance on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. Part of the power of writing notes down comes from the need to summarize on the fly, to paraphrase the gist of a lesson rather than copying it down verbatim. The very act of putting information in your own words helps fix ideas more firmly in your mind, leading to greater recall of important facts and concepts. Plus, paraphrasing helps avoid inadvertent plagiarism down the line.
So, in the world of note taking as a learning process, writing beats typing. But do you know what’s even better? Researchers Jeffrey D. Wammes, Melissa E. Meade, and Myra A. Fernandes found that drawing enhances memory better than writing alone does. They conducted seven different experiments to test drawing as a mnemonic or encoding strategy. These studies showed a large and reliable advantage in memory performance for items that were previously drawn relative to those that were written. The researchers concludes that the “drawing effect” integrates many different types of memory codes into one cohesive, more easily recalled schema or body of knowledge. Even better, drawing notes may, like doodling, serve to sharpen concentration during lectures.
Great notes lead to great grades, scores, and results. The way we take notes has a lot to do with what makes them great. Next time, you need to learn knowledge over the long term, put away that laptop, tablet, or voice recorder. All you needs are your eyes, ears, and the writing implements of your choice… make your notes a masterpiece!