Digital Notes vs Paper Notes Compared

95% of college students report that they take notes while attending a lecture.

Recently, however, I’ve been seeing a sizable number of students carrying their laptops or tablets and taking their notes on them in class.

With digital notes taking a storm over the past few years, is the pen still mightier than the keyboard in notes today? Having dabbled in both digital notes and paper notes, here are some of the benefits that both provide: 

Paper Notes

Digital Notes

It forces you to understand what you are writing

It allows you to take down more content

Versatile and Cost-effective

Environmentally friendly

Prevents Distractions

Easier to Organize

Paper Notes

With paper and pen notes being the default mode of writing for so many years, here are three  reasons why it is still widely used today.

  • Paper Note forces you to understand what you are writing
  • The benefit of handwriting notes on paper is that it allows the viewer to truly process the information that they are writing, and only allows them to take down what is essential. In a study replicating the research conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer studying how much mightier is the pen than a keyboard for note-taking, results show that there was more verbatim overlap for the laptop compared to the longhand group. This means that the notes that were taken down on laptops, were written on a word for word basis, rather than one’s notes. Taking down your notes on paper would allow you to truly filter out only the important content needed, and allows you to write notes in a way that is unique to yourself.

  • Paper Note is Versatile and cost-effective 
  • Compared to tablets or laptops, paper and stationery are relatively inexpensive and have been the go-to medium for many years. Not only that, paper notes can come in the form of sticky notes or flags, which are versatile because you can stick them anywhere you want. This means that you can stick them where they’re most visible to you, allowing you to review your notes even when doing mundane tasks. Paper notes also tend to come in handy when you’re allowed to bring in a cheat sheet to your test, as most teachers would not usually allow digital notes to be brought in for obvious reasons.

  • Paper note prevents distractions
  • Oftentimes when we decide to use our electronic devices to take notes, we are often met with distractions along the way. With platforms such as social media and online shopping dominating our digital landscape, you might end up finding yourself scrolling through Instagram instead of taking down your notes. With paper notes, however, you can minimize the distractions that you face. Taking notes on paper means that you would only focus on doing the task at hand, which can even help in producing quality notes. At most, you might end up doodling on your paper, but hey, even doodles can help understand your content better.

    Digital Notes

    Digital Note-taking has truly been a game-changer in terms of note-taking. No longer are digital notes taken only on our laptops, but with the emergence of technology such as IPads and Tablets, the experience of taking notes on paper can now be replicated on our devices.

  • Digital Note is easier to organize
  • With so many new note-taking apps hitting the market, such as Notability and GoodNotes, taking notes digitally is almost like using the real pen and paper itself. The emergence of these apps allows for easier organization of notes, thanks to both the interface of these apps, along with the details they have. It becomes easier to organize notes based on subjects, and you can further subdivide them into topics as well. Not only that, they provide a variety of templates for you to choose from, which means that you have the chance to tinker around and find out which system works best for you. Some popular templates would be the Cornell note-taking template, along with unique templates such as engineering grids and even music staves for aspiring musicians.

  • Digital Note allows you to take down more content
  • Taking notes digitally on your laptop allows you to be able to catch what your lecturer is talking about since it is faster to type notes. According to a study conducted by Joel Myerson studying the effect of note-taking on computers and its relation to recall, results have shown that when people used a computer to take notes, more notes were taken and more information was recalled from the lecture, compared to taking notes by hand. Considering how students often complain about how lectures can be fast-paced, the time saved by typing your notes instead of writing can also help you take down content that you would have otherwise missed. Not only that, taking your notes digitally allows you to be able to add in details such as pictures or videos to enhance your understanding of the topic. Simply take a snapshot during the lecture and insert it into your notes.

  • Digital Note is environmentally friendly
  • Admittedly, while paper notes are great, they do cause a significant amount of harm to the environment because trees are chopped down to meet the demand for paper. I’m not going to lie, printing 30 slides worth of lecture slides to take notes on isn’t exactly something I’m proud of. Thus, if you have a green thumb, a more environmentally friendly option would be to make the switch to digital devices to take your notes. It’s a lot more sustainable taking your notes digitally, especially if you have a lot of content that’s being covered in class.

    Most of us would have once been a student, and you’ve probably been exposed to taking notes at some point in time.  I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lot of notes to me. Be it on your laptop, or your good ol’ paper and pen, there's no doubt that notetaking is an important skill that we need for a very long time. 

    With that, I hope that you have a better understanding of both digital and paper notes, and have a clearer idea of which might be better for you. No matter which you choose, remember that taking good notes is the most important part!


    Morehead, K., Dunlosky, J., & Rawson, K. A. (2019). How much mightier is the pen than the keyboard for note-taking? A replication and extension of Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014). Educational Psychology Review, 31(3), 753-780.

    Bui, D. C., Myerson, J., & Hale, S. (2013). Note-taking with computers: Exploring alternative strategies for improved recall. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(2), 299.

    Efforts have been made to get the information as accurate and updated as possible. If you found any incorrect information with credible source, please send it via the contact us form
    Author: Meena
    Meena is an aspiring engineer with a love for writing in her free time.
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