One of the most important components of law school studying is how effectively you take class notes. Professors will often take what they discuss in class and use it on the final since not everyone takes effective notes and it will create a curve. So even if you’re keeping up on your readings and understanding the material- without great class notes it could all be inane. When considering what is best when writing or typing your class notes the best method…depends.
Typing Your Notes
Based off Experience:
- Many of us can type faster than we can write and your typed notes may not always make sense, but they’ll always be legible and you won’t be able to see the moment you were falling in and out of sleep because your writing turns from legible to chicken scratch.
- Typed notes are a lot easier to navigate because of tools like cut and paste and inexpensive databases such as Evernote, One Note and Google Docs. Furthermore typing your notes onto a database will be helpful in case you leave your notes at a coffee shop instead of losing them forever.
- Typing your notes could also save your life during a cold call. For example, during Constitutional law last semester, the professor asked the class about a specific case he brought up weeks prior in class, which wasn’t in his assigned reading. He asked about ‘economic protectionism’ and then called my name and before the utter fear of not having a legitimate answer in front of my 80 classmates sunk in, I typed in “economic protectionism” into my search bar on my Word doc, found the case and was able to talk about it in detail, much to my professor’s satisfaction and my relief.
- Maybe using your laptop is a solid way for you to multi-task – consider how much you are paying tuition at your school. By trying to do two things at once- you are essentially robbing yourself of time.
Based off Research:
- There have been many studies, most notably the Muller and Oppenheimer study, that say that nearly 90% of laptop user students were occupied with online activity unrelated to coursework for at least 5 minutes. Additionally, approximately 60% of students were distracted for half the class.
- Using a laptop has been shown to also reduce the cognitive resources needed for production and limits the resources you need to comprehend and assist in learning and long-term retention. These are hard stats to justify surfing Facebook or checking your email for.
Writing Your Notes by Hand
Based off Experience:
- Since you can’t surf the Internet during class, your focus is on the subject in front of you, which will pay off come final time.
- Because you can only write so fast, you do have to be selective in what you choose to write down. However, active listening will help you retain information more effectively. While I have friends that type notes because they want to be able to refer back to their class notes in transcript form, this method is pretty useless when trying to cipher out what was the most important theme in each class. Especially in producing notes, quality matters much more than quantity.
- While I’m sure this isn’t everyone’s result – my best grades and the material I feel most comfortable with are in the classes I hand wrote my notes.
Based off Research:
- The research on hand writing notes instead of typing is insurmountably in favor of handwriting. It’s been discovered that because hand written notes requires selectivity – you are setting yourself up for long-term comprehension and a much deeper understanding of the material.
Regardless of what method you decide to utilize, what should matter most is taking notes with the medium you feel the best using. Additionally, once you start a certain approach, try to be consistent. You don’t want to spend time searching for notes on a laptop and flipping the pages on your notebook when it comes time to outline and prepare for finals.
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Other helpful law school tips:
- Taking Good Law School Notes
- More Reasons to Handwrite Class Notes
- Want to Get Good Law School Grades – Become a Self-Starter
- All The Supplies You Need to Start Law School Right
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