Handwriting vs typing notes

Laptop? Or notepad? We take a look at current research to show you the most effective way to take notes.

Clock 2 min read Calendar Published: 8 Sep 2021
Author Luke Garbutt
Handwriting vs typing notes

Wondering whether to pack your laptop for your next class?

We know there’s a lot of information out there about learning with tech, so we thought we’d answer a pretty basic question - is it better to type or write your notes?

Thankfully, there’s been plenty of research into this topic in recent years.

We’ve broken it down for you in a quick comparison.

First, a few quick facts about note taking

No matter whether you write or type your notes, it’s worth keeping a few points in mind, not least the importance of note taking itself for learning.

The benefits of handwritten and typed notes

Handwritten notes

There’s evidence that taking notes by hand helps encode information into your long term memory better than other methods.

By taking notes on paper, you’re forcing your mind to work a little harder with the information you’re facing. Because you can’t write fast enough to get everything down by hand, you tend to summarize key points, which can help with your conceptual understanding of the subject.

In other words, the limitations of handwritten notes make learners naturally follow a more effective note taking process, based on summary and interpretation.

Typed notes

You can type at a much faster rate than writing, making laptop note taking the most efficient method for note taking. And because capturing more notes is better for learning, you can use this to your advantage.

Using digital programs makes it much easier to keep your notes organised and searchable than using a notebook, too. This will really help you out when you’re reviewing your notes later on.

Handwriting vs typing notes

The drawbacks of handwritten and typed notes

Handwritten notes

You’ll miss a lot of important information writing notes by hand. You’ll never be able to keep up with everything that’s being said, so you need to have a very effective method to get the most from class.

Another problem you may come across is collating your notes. Keeping everything together is one thing, but making sure your notes are useful for study is another, and you’ll need to do both to make note taking worthwhile in the long run.

Typed notes

Studies show that students tend to transcribe the professor’s words when typing notes. This captures more material, but it’s less useful for understanding the subject on a conceptual level. Typing notes in this way causes shallower information processing than handwritten notes.

For this reason, it’s assumed that typing notes is automatically less effective than writing. That’s not necessarily true (if you take the right approach).

Handwriting vs typing notes

The verdict

Looking at the pros and cons, one thing becomes a little clearer; your note taking needs to follow a process that plays to its strengths for learning.

Handwritten notes help note takers process information at a higher level. And typed notes help learners capture more information. Both of these advantages are critical to deep learning of lecture material.

Just as the drawback of writing notes - the speed you can do it - pushes you to process new information more effectively, the advantage of typed notes can be detrimental to learning if transcribing a lecture is all you’re doing.

What you really need is a mix of both these approaches - a note taking method that allows you to properly digest what’s being said, while capturing more material to review when it really counts.

So how can you ensure you’re processing information properly while capturing everything you need?

Capture it all with Glean

Thousands of students are now using Glean to take notes and improve their learning. And more than 70% get higher grades after just one semester.

Glean's simple note taking process is making lectures less stressful and learners more confident in their knowledge. It's the perfect antidote to traditional note taking.

And now, you can try it for free.


Written by Luke Garbutt

Author Bio


Meet Glean
Time for a simpler, smarter note taking accommodation?

Time for a simpler, smarter note taking accommodation?

Glean is the online note taking tool that makes compliance simple, reduces cost and admin burden, and improves student outcomes.
Learn More