Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Counseling and Personnel Services, PhD

Committee Chair

Valentine, Jeff

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

DeCaro, Marci

Committee Member

DeCaro, Marci

Committee Member

Immekus, Jason

Committee Member

Pössel, Patrick

Author's Keywords

note-taking; notetaking; note taking; handwriting; typewriting; meta-analysis


Reach out to with questions.


This study is a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies examining the effect of note-taking modality during lecture, that is, taking notes by hand using pen and paper vs. taking notes using a keyboard and computer, on learning among secondary and postsecondary students. I begin with a review of the literature and theoretical introduction to the theories and terms used. From a theoretical standpoint, there are strong reasons to believe that taking notes by hand might offer recall benefits relative to taking notes using a computer and keyboard. At the same time, I point out that one problem, which I term the “fundamental problem of modality research”, is that when researchers randomly assign participants to a note-taking modality they are also, indirectly, assigning them to a note-taking style. Furthermore, most studies do not consider factors such as participant transcription capacity that might serve as theoretically important moderators. I then describe the methods used for the systematic review and meta-analysis. These included a robust literature search, double screening of all potentially eligible studies, and double coding of all eligible studies. The meta-analytic methods involved multilevel applications of standard meta-analytic methods. The systematic review resulted in identification of 33 eligible reports containing 42 independent samples and 88 effect sizes, all evaluating whether there are recall differences — almost always operationalized as scores on a quiz given after exposure to lecture material — between participants taking notes by handwriting vs. typewriting, that is, the modality effect. A statistically significant overall meta-analytic average was found g = +0.144 [0.023, 0.265], p = .021, benefiting handwriters over typewriters. This is a small effect; on average, in the typical study typewriters scored about 50% on the recall quiz. The effect size of g = +0.14 translates into an average percent correct of about 57% in the handwriting group. There is some evidence that providing participants with an opportunity to review their notes might substantially reduce the observed advantage for handwriters.