Why is note taking important?

In education, note taking is a key part of the way we interact with information in classes and lectures. But why is note taking an important skill to have, especially for students?

Clock 3 min read Calendar Published: 17 Feb 2021
Author Luke Garbutt
Why is note taking important?

Note taking is the established form of collecting information during your studies, but why is this? If you find yourself passively taking notes during class, read this blog to understand why it's such an important skill to have, and how actively taking notes can benefit you.

Also, providing students with sets of notes can still be the go-to note taking accommodation for many disability services departments. But we think that needs to change.

Why? Because note taking itself is hugely aids learning.

In this piece, we explain our five top reasons why good note taking is the way to empower students and build lifelong skills.

1. Give a man a fish...

The message behind this article centers on a familiar saying;

‘You give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’

Providing students with notes is the equivalent of giving them fish - a short term fix. Empowering them to become great note takers themselves provides a long-term solution, which carries the benefits of the note-taking process along with it.

So what is it about the process of note taking that makes it more important than the end product?

2. The Encoding Function

Alongside note taking’s production of an external store of information for review, the actual act itself is beneficial for learning. The taking of notes can aid recall, even if the notes made aren’t reviewed afterwards, and this is defined as its ‘encoding’ function.

This has also been described by researchers as ‘The Generation Effect’. In comparing individuals that took their own notes versus those that received notes, it was found that generating one’s own notes was better for retaining information. And it models how we learn.

We can compare this to the digestive system.

3. Ingestion vs. Digestion

In a way, we process information like food. Just like when we eat, when we take in new information we do more than simply ingest it. We need to allow the good stuff to be absorbed through an internal process. Our digestive system works because it makes use of what will nourish us but also filters out what won’t. And synthesizing information through note taking does pretty much the same thing.

As we’re taking notes, we spot connections between what we know and what we’re hearing. In the act of noting this, we help to digest the information for later use.

Why is note taking important?

4. Taking Notes Aids Learning

So when it comes to studying, note taking is hugely important for learning the information in front of you, and it goes beyond simply having the information to review later.

The various functions of note taking have been subject to numerous studies over the past few decades. One such influential work from 1989 investigates the ‘encoding-storage paradigm’, asking how useful both functions of note-taking are for learning lecture material.

What emerges is an analysis that emphasizes the importance of both encoding and storage.

In other words, taking notes has more benefits for learning than receiving notes.

5. They Help Us Reflect

So other than encoding and storage, why else might note taking be important? They’re made and used in all manner of contexts, and not every note has the same purpose.

Consider the personal diary or journal. It involves a type of note taking that doesn’t fit neatly into either the encoding or storage functions, unless we wish to remember something from the day or to review our entries later. Rather, the diary is a tool of reflection - it can help us make emotional or rational sense of things that have happened, and provide an area where we can articulate our feelings and thoughts privately.

Perhaps after making an entry into our diary we come to a decision about a choice we’re facing. The act of noting our problem becomes a way of better understanding it and deciding what we’re going to do next. This is another function of note taking that can fit alongside encoding and storage.

For learning, this act of reflection - working out our relationship with the information we’re presented with - can be just as important as the information itself.


Are you ready to supercharge your learning with great note taking?

Through the points laid out above, we hope that we've helped you to understand why note-taking is essential for learning, considering the cognitive benefits that come with really engaging in the art of taking notes.

Hopefully, you'll begin to see improvements in memory storage and recall, while also enhancing your ability to learn and retain information.

Regardless of the context, whether you're in higher education, further education, or even in the workplace taking notes during meetings or seminars, note taking allows you to activate a higher level of cognitive function and helps you retain more information.

Find a method that works best for your learning style and experience the benefits of note taking for yourself!


Written by Luke Garbutt

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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.
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