Aatina Shaikh

College means a bunch of lecture classes. You sit there and spend hours of your day taking notes. Around the room, you see people with journals out, their computers, and even iPads too. If you’re like me, you’re constantly wanting to try new approaches, but are scared of messing with something that isn’t really broken. Today, we are going to go through the pros and cons of each way of taking notes.

📝 Handwriting Notes on Paper


  • High levels of retention in comparison to typing notes on the computer (as proven by studies)
  • Can organize information in unlimited ways 
  • Cheapest method


  • Slow method and you may miss content
  • Must carry a physical journal along with writing utensils like pens, highlighters, markers

⌨️ Typing Notes on a Computer


  • This is the fastest method to ensure the least amount of information is missed 
  • Collaboration is possible through shared notes
  • Sharing your notes is easiest (and people can read the notes)
  • All notes are in the same place


  • Low retention levels in comparison to handwriting
  • Methods of organizing information are limited to a few options 
  • Expensive
  • A computer can die while taking notes
  • The existence of unlimited distractions (Yes, I’m calling out you 2048, Solitaire, Snake game-playing humans)

✍️ Handwriting Notes on an iPad or Tablet 


  • Collaboration may be possible here
  • Organizational methods increase in comparison to typing notes 
  • All notes are in the same place (and you can utilize ‘ctrl-F’ in most cases)


  • Difficult to write on a screen 
  • Expensive 
  • Your tablet or iPad battery can die while taking notes
  • The existence of unlimited distractions (Online shoppers… I see you) 

All in all, I will say I have a bias toward taking notes on paper. I have always enjoyed being able to code my notes in ways that I understand and it has helped me with retention as well. I also have the ability to draw notes when I see fit. (This TED Talk describes the benefits of visual note-taking.) I also get distracted so quickly when using electronics, so this takes the urge away completely. 

This great debate is one many have been fighting for years. What works for one person may not work for another. Use the note-taking method that works best for you. If you would like to experiment with different kinds of note-taking methods, I suggest testing them out in situations where it’s not critical for you to retain all information (where you won’t be tested on it). Hopefully, these tips will help with any upcoming midterms and finals, or help you implement a new note-taking regime in you life. 

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