Many students use laptops to take notes in classes, but does using them impact later test performance? In a high-profile investigation comparing note-taking writing on paper versus typing on a laptop keyboard, Mueller and Oppenheimer (Psychological Science, 25, 1159–1168, 2014) concluded that taking notes by longhand is superior. We conducted a direct replication of Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014) and extended their work by including groups who took notes using eWriters and who did not take notes. Some trends suggested longhand superiority; however, performance did not consistently differ between any groups (experiments 1 and 2), including a group who did not take notes (experiment 2). Group differences were further decreased after students studied their notes (experiment 2). A meta-analysis (combining direct replications) of test performance revealed small (nonsignificant) effects favoring longhand. Based on the present outcomes and other available evidence, concluding which method is superior for improving the functions of note-taking seems premature.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Although Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014) used a delayed test in experiment 3, the delayed test results from the present experiment do not constitute a direct replication of their experiment 3 because they used different materials.
As stated in the Method section, we added questions to those used by Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014). To ensure that any different outcomes were not due to the new questions, we also conducted the planned comparisons based on performance for only test questions that were used in the original report. Conclusions were the same whether analyses were conducted on the entire question set (reported in the text) or the original questions (analyses available from the first author).
Given that our initial aim was to replicate Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014), who did not include a no-notes group, we also did not include this group in experiment 1. We included it in experiment 2 because it could potentially offer insight into the overall encoding benefits of note-taking.
Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014, experiment 3) allowed students 10 min to study their notes. Most participants in the present study took only one or two pages of notes; thus, we expected that 7 min would be plenty of time for study, and no participants reported needing more time.
Barrett, M. E., Swan, A. B., Mamikonian, A., Ghajoyan, I., Kramarova, O., & Youmans, R. J. (2014). Technology in note taking and assessment: the effects of congruence on student performance. International Journal of Instruction, 7, 49–58.
Blasiman, R., Dunlosky, J., & Rawson, K. A. (2017). The what, how much, and when of study strategies: comparing intended versus actual study behavior. Memory, 25, 784–792. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2016.1221974.
Braver, S. L., Thoemmes, F. J., & Rosenthal, R. (2014). Continuously cumulating meta-analysis and replicability. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9, 333–342. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614529796.
Bui, D. C., Myerson, J., & Hale, S. (2013). Note-taking with computers: Exploring alternative strategies for improved recall. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 299–309. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030367.
Carter, J. F., & Van Matre, N. H. (1975). Note taking versus note having. Journal of Educational Psychology, 67, 900–904. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06188.8.131.520.
Carter, S. P., Greenberg, K., & Walker, M. S. (2017). The impact of computer usage on academic performance: evidence from a randomized trial at the United States Military Academy. Economics of Education Review, 56, 118–132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2016.12.005.
Di Vesta, F. J., & Gray, G. S. (1972). Listening and note taking. Journal of Educational Psychology, 63, 8–14. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0032243.
Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2017). Spontaneous spatial strategy use in learning from scientific text. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 49, 66–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2017.01.002.
Francis, G. (2012). Publication bias and the failure of replication in experimental psychology. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 19, 975–991. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-012-0322-y.
Glass, A. L., & Kang, M. (2018). Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance. Educational Psychology. 1–14. On-line first publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2018.1489046.
Gurung, R. A. (2005). How do students really study (and does it matter)? Education, 39, 323–340.
James, K. H. (2017). The importance of handwriting experience on the development of the literate brain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26, 502–508. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721417709821.
James, K. H., & Engelhardt, L. (2012). The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 1, 32–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tine.2012.08.001.
James, K. H., & Gauthier, I. (2006). Letter processing automatically recruits a sensory-motor brain network. Neuropsychologia, 44, 2937–2949. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.06.026.
Johnson, C. I., & Mayer, R. E. (2009). A testing effect with multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 621–629. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015183.
Karpicke, J. D., Butler, A. C., & Roediger, H. L. (2009). Metacognitive strategies in student learning: do students practice retrieval when they study on their own? Memory, 17, 471–479. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658210802647009.
Kiewra, K. A. (1985). Students’ note-taking behaviors and the efficacy of providing the instructor’s notes for review. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 10, 378–386. https://doi.org/10.1016/0361-476X(85)90034-7.
Kiewra, K. A. (1989). A review of note-taking: the encoding-storage paradigm and beyond. Educational Psychology Review, 1, 147–172. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01326640.
Kobayashi, K. (2005). What limits the encoding effect of note-taking? A meta-analytic examination. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 30, 242–262. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2004.10.001.
Kobayashi, K. (2006). Combined effects of note-taking/reviewing on learning and the enhancement through interventions: a meta-analytic review. Educational Psychology, 26, 459–477. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410500342070.
Kornell, N., Bjork, R. A., & Garcia, M. A. (2011). Why tests appear to prevent forgetting: a distribution-based bifurcation model. Journal of Memory and Language, 65, 85–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2011.04.002.
Luo, L., Kiewra, K. A., Flanigan, A. E., & Peteranetz, M. S. (2018). Laptop versus longhand note taking: effects on lecture notes and achievement. Instructional Science, 46, 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-018-9458-0.
Morehead, K., Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Blasiman, R., & Hollis, R. B. (2019). Note-taking habits of 21st century college students: implications for student learning, memory, and achievement. Memory. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2019.156969.
Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25, 1159–1168. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614524581.
Nandagopal, K., & Ericsson, K. A. (2012). An expert performance approach to the study of individual differences in self-regulated learning activities in upper-level college students. Learning and Individual Differences, 22, 597–609. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2011.11.018.
Palmatier, R. A., & Bennett, J. M. (1974). Notetaking habits of college students. Journal of Reading, 18, 215–218. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40009958. Accessed 12 April 2016.
Patterson, R. W., & Patterson, R. M. (2017). Computers and productivity: evidence from laptop use in the college classroom. Economics of Education Review, 57, 66–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2017.02.004.
Peverly, S. T., & Sumowski, J. F. (2012). What variables predict quality of text notes and are text notes related to performance on different types of tests? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 104–117. https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.1802.
Peverly, S. T., & Wolf, A. D. (2019). Note-taking. To appear in J. Dunlosky & K. A. Rawson (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of cognition and education (pp. 320–355). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Peverly, S. T., Sumowski, J. F., & Garner, J. (2007). Skill in lecture note-taking: what predicts? Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 167–180. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06184.108.40.206.
Peverly, S. T., Vekaria, P. C., Reddington, L. A., Sumowski, J. F., Johnson, K. R., & Ramsay, C. M. (2013). The relationship of handwriting speed, working memory, language comprehension and outlines to lecture note-taking and test-taking among college students. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27, 115–126. https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.2881.
Peverly, S. T., Garner, J. K., & Vekaria, P. C. (2014). Both handwriting speed and selective attention are important to lecture note-taking. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 27, 1–30. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-013-9431-x.
Ragan, E. D., Jennings, S. R., Massey, J. D., & Doolittle, P. E. (2014). Unregulated use of laptops over time in large lecture classes. Computers & Education, 78, 78–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.05.002.
Reddington, L. A., Peverly, S. T., & Block, C. J. (2015). An examination of some of the cognitive and motivation variables related to gender differences in lecture note-taking. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 28, 1155–1185. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-015-9566-z.
Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249–255. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01693.x.
Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education, 62, 24–31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.003.
Sibley, C. G. (2008). Utilities for examining simple meta-analytic avergages [computer software]. Auckland: University of Auckland.
Simmons, J. P., Nelson, L. D., & Simonsohn, U. (2011). False-positive psychology: undisclosed flexibility in data collection and analysis allows presenting anything as significant. Psychological Science, 22, 1359–1366. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611417632.
Simons, D. J. (2014). The value of direct replications. Perspectives on Psychological Sciences, 9, 76–80. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691613514755.
Simons, D. J., Shoda, Y., & Lindsay, D. S. (2017). Constraints on generality (COG): a proposed addition to all empirical papers. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12, 1123–1128. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617708630.
Toppino, T. C., & Cohen, M. S. (2009). The testing effect and the retention interval. Experimental Psychology, 56, 252–257. https://doi.org/10.1027/1618-3220.127.116.11.
Vinci-Booher, S., James, T. W., & James, K. H. (2016). Visual-motor functional connectivity in preschool children emerges after handwriting experience. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 5, 107–120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tine.2016.07.006.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF. The authors have no financial or non-financial interest in the materials discussed in this manuscript. Many thanks to Asad Khan, Annette Kratcoski, Duane Marhefka, Erica Montbach, and Todd Packer for support and encouragement with this project.
This research was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, STTR Phase II: Digital e-Writer for the Classroom, Grant Number 413328.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Appendix 1. Correlation Tables Within Note-Taking Method Group for Experiment 1
Appendix 2. Correlation Tables Within Note-Taking Method Group for Experiment 2
About this article
Cite this article
Morehead, K., Dunlosky, J. & Rawson, K.A. How Much Mightier Is the Pen than the Keyboard for Note-Taking? A Replication and Extension of Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014). Educ Psychol Rev 31, 753–780 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-019-09468-2