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Pen v Laptop: 5 Reasons to Handwrite your Lecture Notes

Sketch hand holding quill

No aching hands, no loose pieces of paper, no margin notes to self “copy legislation in here” – typing your notes in class has some definite advantages. But before you throw away your humble notebooks once and for all, consider these benefits of handwriting your lecture notes.

1. Better notes

While they may be less detailed, the notes you write by hand are going to be better for your learning than the notes you type on your computer. Why? The very fact that you can’t fit as much information into your handwritten notes forces your learning to become more efficient – instead of copying in big blocks of legislation that you’ll later spend valuable exam time sifting through, you summarise the section into a digestible, easily understood sentence that helps you to better understand the content and will save you time in exams.

2. Active listening

Because you can’t take down as much information by handwriting as you can through typing, you’re naturally going to filter out the less important information during your lecture. Handwriting your notes and listening for the important information will make you more attentive during class, as you can’t blindly copy every one of your lecturer’s words.

3. Fewer distractions

You go on your uni’s web page to download the lecture notes. While you’re there you may as well check your uni email then your other email and probably Facebook too. Someone’s sent you a funny link and all of a sudden the lecture’s half over and all you’ve taken in is a cat gif. Without a laptop in front of you you’re forced to pay more attention in class.

4. Hand training for exams

Since I’ve had a laptop I’ve found exams to be a lot harder. It’s likely that the content has increased in difficulty as I’ve progressed through my degree but I think it also has something to do with the fact that I bought a computer – now unused to writing in class, my hands have cramped up to the point where I dread exams not for the content, but for the pain I know I’m going to feel afterwards. Writing regularly in class strengthened my hand to the point where I could dash of pages and pages in exams easily – now I scrawl three clumsy pages and call it a day.

5. Badge of honour

While these are all good reasons for handwriting your notes, for me the most persuasive is the handwritten notes badge of honour.

I was four years into law school before I caved and bought a laptop, so I have files and files of dutifully written notes from the earlier years of my degree. Seeing those crinkly pages filled with my tiny writing fills me with a happiness that only other law students will understand – a kind of relief at seeing a tangible representation of your years of hard work. No matter how much work I do on my computer now, it won’t come close to the pride I feel seeing those pages.

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