Point/Counterpoint: Digital notes versus physical notes

No matter how you take notes, there's a bunch of perks that come from taking them. But which method is the way to go?

It’s time to settle the age-long debate — should we be taking our notes by-hand or digitally? Some people swear by taking physical notes, while others think it’s less stressful to type them out. Either way, as long as you’re taking notes, we’re proud of you.

Digital Notes

As a lover of pretty stationary and someone who’s an avid writer, you would think I am all for physical note-taking. However, it’s quite the opposite. 

When it comes to taking notes for my classes, the last thing I want to do is whip out a pen and paper. The only thing I take out from my backpack at the start of class is my laptop and a water bottle. 

Typing up notes during class is much more effective than physically writing them for a number of reasons.

First is efficiency. I can type much faster than I can write, which helps when my instructor speaks at a faster speed than what I can process. With my laptop, I can keep up with what the instructor is saying in real time. This is great because I don’t have to rely on my questionable memory to fill in the blanks. 

The second perk of typing is the variety of tools I can use. Google Docs lets me move words or phrases anywhere in the document. Contrarily, it also lets me delete entire sentences without messing up the format. I can change the size or type of font, which I often do when introducing a new topic or an important theme. Another great perk of using technology is the ability to insert images, tables, or graphs into the document if needed! If my instructor’s lecture centers around an image or graph, I can usually copy and paste it directly into my notes and type around it. 

Lastly, the most compelling part about using technology for note-taking is its immortality. I never have to worry about spilling coffee on the page and ruining my notes. Having my pen run out of ink mid-sentence is never a concern. I don’t have to carry around four different notebooks, nor remember to bring them each day — everything is in one place. 

Note-taking doesn’t have to be messy and stressful. By typing up your notes you can maximize all of technology’s benefits. And you can save yourself from painful hand cramps. 

Brooklyn Hollinger

Physical Notes

Honestly, I do suffer from hand cramps and beat-up notebooks. It’s true that taking notes by-hand may not be the most practical option. But I am here to convince you that the pros outweigh the cons, and taking physical notes is the way to go.

Firstly, studies have shown that taking physical notes helps with information retention and understanding. Not only does writing by-hand slow you down to give you more time to learn as you go, but it stimulates the part of the brain that is used in memory retention, making it easier to recall later on. Not only will you have an easier time learning if you’re writing by-hand, but it’ll be easier studying later. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to suffer a few hand cramps for a better grade.

Additionally, taking physical notes means I’m not impacted by Wi-Fi outages, or documents not saving. Microsoft Word crashed and you lost your document? Not a problem. The Wi-Fi won’t load, and you can’t get into your Google Drive? No issue. The note-taking platform you use is shutting down and now you need to figure out how to transfer all your notes over somewhere else? Not on my watch. I just whip out my notebook and I am ready to go, anywhere. This is also super great if I want to study on the bus ride home. Pulling out a notebook is way less risky and awkward than pulling out a laptop in a moving vehicle.

An extra perk I’ve discovered is that when finals come around and I need to write a paper in under two hours by-hand, I’m well-conditioned to it. While everyone else is stretching their hands out every two sentences and cursing the pen they brought, I’m writing away.

Finally, taking physical notes is just fun. Sure, my notes in class might be hardly legible, but when I get home the fun begins. I study by rewriting my notes, so I take this opportunity to bust out highlighters, gel pens, and post-it notes. Making my notes pretty makes studying a fun experience. Plus, I’m not confined to the formats on Google Docs. I can add drawings and weirdly formatted charts wherever I want, making for a unique organization system.

All in all, I love taking notes by-hand. It might not be the most efficient, but it helps me learn better. Give it a shot before resorting to digital note-taking.

— Anna Bajwa-Zschocke

Brooklyn Hollinger

Brooklyn is the 2023-24 Deputy Opinion Editor. She is a Classics major and Creative Writing Minor. She is a lover of fantasy books, peach iced tea, and can usually be found obsessing over pictures of her dog Zoey.

Anna Bajwa-Zschocke

Anna was the 2023-24 Opinion Editor and is in media studies. Usually she can be found amongst colour coded sticky notes, nerding out about European history, bad reality TV, or some new book

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