To take notes in portable: you are learning?

It could say that one of the main activities in the life of a university student is to take notes. Or at least, to handle the notes of others (commissions of notes, €œtochos€€¦) in order to study the different subjects. Because to study by a book, generally, usually he is too ample for the exigencies of an examination.

There are many techniques different to take notes, and since the portable ones have been lowered the price of and done lighter (it does a few years already), many students use them to take notes in class. Most modern they use €œtablets€ with keyboard. From my lectern of profe they offer a peculiar spectacle, since normally the students with keyboards write much more and look less at the professor and the slides that those that takes notes by hand. A furious noise of keys and fingers comes from the zone of the portable ones, whereas those of the ball-point pen and the paper write less and are quieter.

Tecleadores versus writes

It is logical, since one calculates that, whereas the professor pronounces some secondly 2-3 words/, the student can write only 0,2-0,3 by hand words/secondly. The mecanografistas can approach 1 word secondly/. It is necessary to select very well what to put in writing€¦

From the year 2000 and mainly from the 2006 scientific works are being published on the effects of the computers in the classrooms. The professors think generally that they are detrimental because they favor the distraction of the student, who easily sees himself attemped put in other activities (games, e-mail) and stop paying attention in class if they have a portable one by hand. This has been confirmed in some studies as the one of Lauricella and Kay (1), that they observed that the students lay down to relax often and repeatedly throughout the chats.


€¦ according to a work of investigation published in 2014 (2). The students who took notes in computer responded worse to conceptual questions than those that had taken notes by hand. It seemed that the use of the keyboard favored a more superficial processing of the information.

Surely now you will be thinking about classmates who take notes to computer and which they remove very good notes. Obvious, the first contact with the material in class, taking notes, is important. But also you process and you make the material outside class, and the result of all that is what ends up being reflected in the examination. If you study and to memorise well after the classes, you will have good results


We are going to review the mental process to take notes to understand how we can remove more benefit to attend the classes.

To take notes is a very demanding task. In a study of Piolat and cabbages (3) a graph appeared that showed what activities consumed more mental effort, and to take notes was between most expensive, surpassing even to the effort to play a chess game, and surpassing very by far the effort to read or to copy a text by hand. To take notes only was surpassed by the effort to translate or to write up.

To take notes requires 3 complex mental activities, that are:

  1. To understand (what the professor is explaining)
  2. To select (what it seems important)
  3. To write

What strategies develop the student with the practice?

  • Abbreviations and codes that make faster the task of transcribing
  • Refrasear and to summarize what has been shelp by the professor
  • To space organize it on the paper (you shoot with an arrow, tabulators) so that its later understanding is facilitated

All this happens time and time again throughout the class, that usually lasts 1 hour. In this activity, the executive functions of the working memory are used time and time again, and under pressure of time (because it does not give time to write everything). It is easy to understand why he is so demanding. It is difficult to stay concentrate constantly, and is normal that they are some emptinesses that soon will be completed during the time of personal study.

Mental processes and conditioners of the taking of notes

Mental processes and conditioners of the taking of notes


€œEncoding effect€ explains that the mental processing that takes place during the taking of notes improves the learning and the retention of information. This knows because it has demonstrated that the student €œlearns€ taking notes, although they examine without letting to him review his notes to him. The effort is worth the trouble.

The hypothesis of the €œExternal storage€ maintains that he is beneficial to review the material written down in a class, even if they are notes of another person.


A phenomenon can be produced during the taking of notes, that is the make to write down literally what the professor is saying. This has passed us to all. I remember to have resorted simply to copy the slide of the screen or to try to write down as quickly as possible what the professor shelp when already was tired and did not feel to me able to concentrate to me in which was being explained. This produced some notes of bad quality, but it seemed better than not to point anything or to remain gotten sleepy on the folder€¦

As the writing in the keyboard is faster than the writing by hand, the student who takes notes to computer runs the risk more often of taking literal notes. The literalness is detrimental, mainly if we are dealing with concepts (for example, if the concepts of pronation and supinaci³n are explaining us) more than with facts (a pronadores muscle list of the forearm (pronador round and pronator quadratus). And we already know that in sciences of the health they bomb to us constantly with concepts. With computer improvements your €œexternal storage€, but you can be harming your €œeffect of codification€.

Nevertheless, in spite the effort of codification that the students with keyboard yes realised (because he was requested to them that they did not transcribe literally), at work of Mueller and Oppenheimer (2) was observed that the students who took notes by hand they had better results than those of computer when they examined on the contents 1 week later to them, after reviewing the notes before the examination. In his article not explains why, but it seems clear that the work of writing by hand, although supposes an additional effort (for which knows the honeys to write more quickly with keyboard), is mentally beneficial.


The question of the million! I recommend you that you analyze sincerely if you adapt by hand better to the computer or the notes, proving both methods in the same subject and seeing how much you learn with each and what she is to you more comfortable in the later study. Later, knowing the disadvantages and advantages each method, it makes your decision. Although it seems that science shows preference by hand for the taken notes, also is certain that let well enough alone. If in your case the taken notes by hand do not offer as much quality to you as those that takings in computer, your motivation can be suffered and you can get to need more time to study, and so the advantage of the notes by hand is lost.

As always, I recommend sincere and amiable personal reflection to you and to be with you mismo/a. And it remembers: it sees water, my friend.


  1. Lauricella S, Kay R. Assessing laptop uses in higher education classrooms: The Laptop Effectiveness Scale (THEM). Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 2010; 26(2): 151-163.
  2. Mueller PA, Oppenheimer DM. The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science 2014; 25(6): 1159-1168.
  3. Cabbage and Piolat To. Cognitive Effort during Note Taking. Appl Cognit Psychol 2005; 19:291-312.
Almudena Trinidad

I am otorrinolaring³loga doctor in a hospital of Madrid and Professor Asociada de Medicina in the UAM. I help Medicine students to develop more effective techniques of study to obtain better notes, to remember during more time and to feel like more happy insurances and with its studies.

15 Commentaries
  • Sophie
    Published to 11:55 h, 10 February To respond

    Me 🙂 has enchanted this article did not pillage the arrival from the portable ones to the classroom but when I have accompanied to some associate to its classes I have verified the furious one I key and I have remained perplex. I was very bad taking notes, she oppressed me when not being able to pillage to the flight all the concepts€¦ until I decided to take the key ideas, to synthesize them, to request notes to my friendly, to go to manuals to study and to do my schemes to me. Double work? Yes, but by noses it learned the things to me.

    • Almudena Trinidad
      Published to 17:26 h, 11 February To respond

      There it is the key, that when you work with the returned material and him DAS, you learn it better. it went me better when she took synthetic notes that when she tried to copy it everything (I had a time thus because she gave rage me that to my friendly they did not like my notes, you already see you€¦).

  • Ricardo
    Published to 15:55 h, 06 December To respond

    It is difficult to find so good articles as this by Internet.

    Good work.

    • Almudena Trinidad
      Published to 17:43 h, 06 December To respond

      Thank you very much, Ricardo.

  • Lily oil mill
    Published to 09:49 h, 25 August To respond

    It was looking for advice expensive the university, since I begin this year, and one of the questions that we considered all the novices is how it is going to us to go better the course, what we can adopt, to use etc. I believe that this article type the truth is very useful at the time of pouring off you by a technique or another one, thank you very much!

    • Almudena Trinidad
      Published to 20:12 h, 26 August To respond

      Thanks to you, Lily. That you have much luck in your homes, and you already know€¦ the difficulties at the outset are normal, you are not hopeless. A hug!

  • Joaquin Barjau Vallet
    Published to 08:52 h, 19 September To respond

    Thank you very much Almudena by these so well based advice you are helping us much.

    • Almudena Trinidad
      Published to 10:51 h, 20 September To respond

      Thanks to you to read the blog, Joaquin. I finish throwing a look to your blog, very interesting! I leave the connection here

  • AngelO
    Published to 04:08 h, 26 October To respond

    Thanks for the article, for programming use the computer to take notes because profa shelp: or beams the exercises or takings notes!

    We are learning structured programming in MatLab and of contraband volume notes and I make the exercises. In short, thanks again for the article.

    • Almudena Trinidad
      Published to 20:49 h, 10 March To respond

      Thanks to you, Angel 🙂

  • Leia Hernandez
    Published to 22:37 h, 30 March To respond

    The content of this one article enchanted to me, I go in 4to semestral of medicine and although there is much people who even write in computer the majority incline by the pencils and notebooks.
    In which respecta writing by hand it has been to me from the things but fabulous because you have the memory of in which it leaves from the leaf you wrote it, of which color and until with which font following my state of humor.
    Very useful this one article and itself inclining to me to write manual that to computer.

  • Maria
    Published to 09:19 h, 04 May To respond

    This article has gone to me well to follow with the idea to take notes by hand! I am in first and I am of the few that are using the ball-point pen and the notebook. We are enough in the skillful ones and screens are only seen! I believe that to write he is personal practitioner more and, I feel that if I key and I shape it in a screen, he is more distant and it is more difficult to process.

    Thank you very much!

    • Almudena Trinidad
      Published to 22:05 h, 04 May To respond

      You are in the good way. It follows by hand with your notes! Thanks to write:))

  • Gabriel
    Published to 13:29 h, 28 September To respond

    jaja I have tried by hand or in PC, and the truth that clearly my problem is in my power of synthesis 🙁
    In aim the only thing that throws to me sometimes but by the paper, is to be able to realise unions with you shoot with an arrow or other adornments to quickly call them thus but in the leaf and the paper€¦
    What it also gave more result me, went to record to the professor with celu during all the hour, being rendered attention, and writing down in a Min paper: Seg in which the PowerPoint as knowing that changed it was speaking visually. It arrived at house after the classes and passed everything to the PC, those recordings and looking at the slides.

    • Almudena Trinidad
      Published to 19:32 h, 31 December To respond

      To be able to draw you shoot with an arrow and all type of symbols and graphs is motivating a very powerful one to use the paper€¦ and above, science endorses 😉 to you

      To use recordings of the class has a serious disadvantage: the long time that you need to invest! I advise to you to take all the information in writing that you can later to only have to complete a few doubts€¦ And it begins to prepare your system of review spaced as soon as possible. Flashcards is success guarantee 😉

It publishes a commentary

This site uses Akismet to reduce the Spam. It learns how the data of your commentaries are processed.

Corporative image: Elena Altuna | Design Web: Marina Rodrigo