Writing by hand is thinking on paper. Thoughts grow into words, sentences, and pictures. Memories become stories. Ideas are transformed into projects. Notes inspire insight. We write and understand, learn, see and think — with the hand.
(This came from the wrapper that comes with a Leuchtturm1979 notebook — love it!)
Benefits Of Hand-Written Notes
Notetaking helps you retain information. The act of writing notes helps cement that information in your brain, but also gives you a reference to refer back to. Evergreen Notes help enforce that by going back to a topic and adding or modifying the note that you previously wrote.
Writing using pen and paper seems to be better in terms of recalling the information in the future. A 2014 study1 seems to suggest that it’s because those who type their notes simply record information as it was presented to them, whereas those who write out their notes by hand are reprocessing that information and therefore have to think about what they’re writing more.
It seems like content retention for writing depends on the content that was being written. While there was no difference when writing notes on factual information, conceptual information had a significant difference, favouring writing notes.
This article however seems to have flaws in it according to a correction2 that was published on the topic in 2018, however the outcome does not seem to have been impacted.
A direct replication3 of the original study in 2021 seems to suggest that there’s no direct correlation between note-taking format ind performance on a quiz. (Another piece of evidence of the replication crisis?)
Actually Taking Notes
The key takeaways are:
- Bulletpoint lists are simple to work with and helps provide context
- You can infinitely nest lists as required (although this shouldn’t be required)
- Put a title on each note. If it’s date-specific, use the ISO8601 date format
- Don’t be afraid to refine notes later. Written notes are great but not searchable. Consider loading into a wiki or digital garden for more permanent storage.
- How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke
- Haven’t read this book yet. References the Zettelkasten note-taking style, which I’m familiar with. Seems to have some criticisms online which is expected of anything, but have not personally vetted this.