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Writing Workshop

Reading in print is better

It’s not just your imagination — you do remember more of what you read when you read it in print, instead of onscreen.

And that’s why, according to a recent study reported in the Washington Post, most Millennials prefer real books to e-books.

booksWhy are real books better than digital versions? It’s because we tend to skim when we “read” online articles and digital books. We also tend to experience more distractions (social media, email, etc.).

Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication, said she found “jaw-dropping” results when she asked students whether they were more likely to multitask when reading in hard copy (1 percent), as compared to reading on-screen (90 percent). Baron also cited research showing readers spend a little more than one minute on a Web page, and only 16 percent of people read word-by-word.

Skimming, plus a lot of distractions, adds up to poor recall and low comprehension.

A similar problem crops up when students take notes on laptops. According to a 2014 article published in Scientific American, “New research by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer demonstrates that students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more.”

Why? According to Mueller and Oppenheimer, students using laptops can take notes “in a fairly mindless, rote fashion, with little analysis or synthesis by the brain.” That does not promote understanding or retention of information.

On the other hand, when you take notes by hand, you can’t possibly take down every single word. Instead, you’re forced to listen closely, digest the information, and then summarize it in your own words. Doing that improves both your understanding and your retention of the information in question.

In another study, Mueller and Oppenheimer found that students who took notes longhand, and studied from those notes before a test, did better on the test than those who took notes on computer.

The takeaway: Read books and take longhand notes, and you’ll do better in class.

See the full articles:


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