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Comunicar Journal 48: Ethics and plagiarism in scientific communication (Vol. 24 - 2016)

A comparative study of handwriting and computer typing in note-taking by university students


Taking notes is a common strategy among higher education students, and has been found to affect their academic performance. Nowadays, however, the use of computers is replacing the traditional pencil-and-paper methodology. The present study aims to identify the advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of computer (typing) and pencil-and-paper (handwriting) for taking notes by college students. A total of 251 social and health science students participated in the study. Two experimental conditions were chosen: taking notes by hand (n=211), and taking notes by computer (n=40). Those that used computer-written notes performed better on tasks based on reproducing the alphabet, writing sentences, and recognizing words (p<.05). However, those using handwritten notes performed better on free recall tasks (p<.05). Differences between the two conditions were statistically significant rejecting the hypothesis of equality between groups (X2=60.98; p<.0001). In addition, the discriminant analysis confirmed that 77.3% of students were correctly classified by the experimental conditions. Although the computer allowed for greater velocity when taking notes, handwriting enhanced students’ grades when performing memory tasks.