I assumed it was because I’m firmly in the “You kids get off my lawn” phase of my career, but after a dalliance with a keyboard, I found I still prefer to write interview notes by hand.

It seems I’m not the crank I thought I was.

Field Notes notebooks

A study by Princeton psychology graduate student Pam Mueller suggests writing lecture notes by hand results in better recall and comprehension of the material than typing them:

She helped conduct a series of experiments that found that writing notes longhand is much better for remembering and synthesizing information than typing on a laptop.

That might seem counterintuitive, since people type notes much faster than they write them. But Mueller found that even though laptop writers were able to take more notes, they were worse at comprehending the information within those notes.

“On the conceptual application questions, the people who took notes on their laptops did significantly worse, and that this was a function of the fact that they were trying to, essentially, take verbatim notes of what the lecturer was saying,” she explains. “The more verbatim notes they took, the worse they did on the test.”

Mueller’s study also found that a similar problem arises when it comes to reviewing the material.

When I take notes by hand, I find myself in the midst of the interview. When I typed notes, it felt as if I was on the outside trying to keep up.

Now I know why.

Perhaps this is what the Underground’s Fav Notebook Supplier Field Notes Brand means when they say “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

Keep writing (by hand), Tom Chandler.