Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Alice Healy

Second Advisor

Kent Willmann

Third Advisor

Eliana Colunga


This study seeks to evaluate how student information retention and comprehension can be influenced by their preferred note taking medium. One-hundred and nine college students watched lectures and took notes with an assigned medium: longhand or computer. Prior to watching the lectures, participants self-reported their preferred note taking medium. These lectures were pre-recorded and featured PowerPoint presentations containing information relating to the lecture. After the lectures, students were able to review their notes briefly before they engaged in activities unrelated to the lecture. They then took two tests based on the lecture material and completed a questionnaire further inquiring about their note taking tendencies. Tests contained two types of questions: conceptual and specific. A main effect of question type was found, with both computer and longhand note takers performing better on specific questions. Further, computer-preferred note takers who were forced to take notes by hand performed worst overall on the tests. Regardless of preference and question type, computer and longhand users performed equally well overall, and the interaction of medium and question type on test performance was not significant. For transcription tendencies, computer note takers generated more words and more 3-word verbatim sequences than longhand note takers. For note taking tendencies, the use of computer notes somewhat positively correlated with the use of no notes. The results of this study help to further understand how students’ preferred note taking medium can influence performance on subsequent tests.