Laptop Versus Longhand Note Taking in a Professional Doctorate Course: Student Performance, Attitudes, and Behaviors

  • Shane Paul Desselle Touro University California
  • Patricia Shane
Keywords: notetaking, laptop notetaking, longhand notetaking, paper notetaking, student performance



Objective: To determine the relationship between longhand note taking versus laptop note taking on pharmacy students’ examination performance and identify differences in attitudes and behaviors as it relates to the note taking process.

Methods: A small group of students consented voluntarily to take longhand notes, doing away with their laptops during portions of the course administered by study investigators. Analyses were conducted on block examination performance, with each student’s score on the first examination serving as a performance benchmark to assess change. Laptop and longhand note takers completed a survey regarding various aspects of their note taking attitudes and behaviors, and also included open text comments to capture qualitative experiential data.

Results: Based upon a relatively small number of participants in the longhand cohort (n=11), the differences between the groups on subsequent examinations was approximately 3.5 percentage points in favor of the longhand note-takers. There were significant differences observed between the two groups on several survey items, with longhand note takers less likely to be distracted in class and more likely to agree that other students ask to review their notes due to the quality of those notes.

Conclusions: Longhand note taking might facilitate more accurate recall or retrieval in test situations, thus producing improved test scores for certain types of students in certain types of courses; however additional research is needed. Faculty may consider whether modifying students’ classroom note taking practices may contribute to an improved learning experience.


Article Type:  Original Research


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Received 2018-07-31
Accepted 2018-10-06
Published 2018-11-05