Type JournalArticle
Date 2014-06-01
Volume 25
Number 6
Tags nonfiction, note-taking
Journal Psychological Science
Pages 1159--1168

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking

Mueller and Oppenheimer performed serveral studies comparing student learning depending on whether notes were taken longhand or on a computer. They found that students who took notes longhand performed better on tests, both immediately and after a delay. The difference was more pronounced on conceptual rather than factual questions. Performance was negatively predicted by verbatim copying (measured as overlap of 3-grams between notes and lecture). As might be expected, verbatim copying was negatively predicted by longhand note-taking. Performance was positively predicted by word count of notes, which was also negatively predicted by longhand note-taking. They speculate that taking notes longhand improves processing of information.


Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

Name Role
Daniel M. Oppenheimer Author
Pam A. Mueller Author