Why I Take Paper Notes

This post was originally from the blog site Binary Girls that my friends Abbey, Sarah, and I started. I’m saving it here for archival reasons.


Taking notesSometimes I feel a bit funny in my classes. When class starts, many students pull out their laptops or tablets. I pull out a notebook. Yeah, one made of paper. I sometimes feel a bit out of place when I do that, especially in my lower-level classes like Assembly Language this semester. Why do I do it this way?

At my last university, I spent a semester taking notes by my laptop. It turned out not to be that great for me. First, in math and physics, it’s really hard to take good notes while properly typing in the symbols they used. It’s hard to type Greek symbols, integral signs, big fractions, and other things with just a keyboard alone. Sure there are add-ons like Microsoft Mathematics that can attach to Word or OneNote, but in the end, the amount of work it takes to properly make a formula look correctly means the professor may have already erased the board full of stuff you needed to type.

Second, I found my comprehension rate was slower. Because I can type fast (on a good day upwards of 90 words per minute), it’s a lot easier to just type what I hear and have it just slip through my brain without really processing it. When I write with paper, I’m pretty slow, but because I have to stop and think over what I’m writing, it has a higher retention rate for me. In addition, it also means when I look back I can often find what I’m looking for in my notes easier, where on the computer I have to actually search pretty heavily, assuming what I’m searching for is in my notes.

Finally, it’s a bit more professional. Usually when I see other students on their laptops, they’re sometimes taking notes, but they’re often checking email, browsing Facebook, reading articles, working on homework, and a variety of other things. I like having my teachers realize that not only am I  there in class but I’m actually listening to what they’re saying and taking an active effort to transcribe notes. Sure, you could with a laptop, but it’s not as obvious. Typing on Facebook and typing notes really look the same when all you see is a computer case from the front of the room.

I have intentions of scanning in notes into my computer for a more permanent storage mechanism than a giant tub of paper notes (I have kept all notes from every class in college, and even a few from high school). But until I get those all scanned in, I’ll keep carrying my paper notebooks with me, and quite possibly being one of a few people that take hand-written notes in my classes.

Which do you find easier to remember from, paper notes or electronic notes? Leave me some comments below to let me know!

~ Sarah

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