Can writing improve memory?

During my first semester at college, I’ve become used to my computer being my lifeline. I am not exaggerating when I say that in almost EVERY class I am enrolled in, I use my computer – with the exception of Andrew’s wonderful SC200 class, of course. However, I noticed in my “computer” classes that I found it a lot harder to retain the information – in fact, when studying for exams, I look at the notes I took on the computer and rewrite them with a pen and paper! I personally have noticed that it does help me remember the information, but can writing actually help improve memory?

Null Hypothesis: Writing does not improve memory

Alternative Hypothesis: Writing does help improve memory

First off: why are computers so popular amongst us anyway?

There is nothing a college kid craves more than a shortcut. Using computers not only speeds up the note taking process, but keeps it all in one, organized, easy to maneuver device. In addition, typing notes on the computer makes it significantly easier to read (I know from experience that dozing off in class tends to create pretty illegible handwriting)(*never in SC200*) so just being able to type along quickly and efficiently takes a lot of stress off one’s shoulders.

Testing the theory:

According to Medical Daily, there was a study conducted using a randomized control trial (college kids of various ages) in an observational study. The students were instructed to take notes they normally would – whether it be by hand or typed – and afterwards they were assessed on the lecture they had just sat through, and asked t expand on the materials, ideas, etc. that they had just learned.

A second study by the same group took place, and this time the students were allowed to review the material for a week before, again, being assessed on the materials they had learned / had been studying for.


While all the college students in the sample sat through the same lecture and had to learn the same amount of material, the students who hand wrote their notes were recorded as performing much better than the students who typed them.


According to the study, the students who typed the notes wrote them down exactly word-for-word; in other words, they were just writing down the words they saw without allowing it to make an intellectual connection with what they were were learning. It was just mindless writing, like a robot following code. With handwriting the notes, you can actually create a sort of muscle memory, which can help a student remember and connect with he material they are writing down. For example; it’s like playing a scale on the piano. the more you play and practice it, the faster it’ll become second nature and you’ll do it without thinking twice.

Handwriting also allows for creative expression. Using a preferable pen color or being able to write little notes in the margin all help a student remember what they are learning. For example, I personally doodle while I’m taking notes – it helps my mind become less all over the place and helps me focus on what I’m writing about.


Since we have enough evidence proving that handwriting does in fact help retain memory, we are able to reject the null hypothesis. 

Study Source: here

Photo Source: here



2 thoughts on “Can writing improve memory?

  1. lkr5215

    This is a great post! I like how you incorporated things we have learned in class into your blog. this is very well organized and using a study to draw your own conclusion was nice making it personal. I have always hand written notes so this is helpful to know it is beneficial. Do you believe that one day typing notes can be as beneficial? Even when hand writing notes there are people who also copy notes word for word so that is something that is done on both ends.

  2. Chris North

    Great blog post and great use of null and alternative hypothesis! I can personally attest to the fact that I retain information much better when I hand write it. When I study, I try to write out as many of my notes from my laptop as possible. I noticed a while ago that I could remember some key words just by recalling the shape my hand would make when I wrote it out. I have since started studying by simply writing out important terms over and over and over like Bart Simpson in detention. I find that I have a much easier time recalling what I deemed “important” when I am actually taking the test. With technology changing and classes becoming more and more technology-based, handwriting notes could become a thing of the past. Do you think somewhere down the line, the human brain can adapt to create the same muscle memory, but with keystrokes instead of handwriting? Here’s an article that discusses how humans are already beginning to learn how to type, without really knowing where the letters are and just using muscle memory to type the right words:

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