Students, Studying

Digital vs Paper: Which Type of Note-taking is Better?

The debate every student has when they reach university or college: which method of note-taking should I try? Most students, like myself, try different things to see what works for them. Different things will work for different people so there’s no point me trying to persuade you to use one method over the other. But I can tell you about the benefits of both, to help you come to a decision.

I would still say that you should try different methods, you might even do different things for different classes.

74% of you said that you preferred Paper Note-taking

In an Instagram Poll

Benefits of Digital Note-Taking


Being able to keep all of your notes within a single laptop/tablet, instead of carrying multiple notebooks is a game changer.

Easier to fix mistakes

An obvious benefit of digital note taking is that you can delete misspellings and mistakes more easily than crossing out words on paper. It’s also a lot easier to move notes around, either by copy and paste or by using lasso tools on note taking apps. It’s just a lot cleaner and easier.

All colour and styles in one pen

If you’re a visual learner and use colours to break up your notes or to colour-coordinate, then it’s a lot easier to do so digitally. You only have to carry one ‘pen’ if you’re using an iPad, or no pen at all if you’re using a computer. You can easily change colours, and you can use literally ANY colour that exists. If you were using paper, you would have to carry a range of pens and pencils with you all the time to do this.

Automatic Notes Back Up

If you lose paper notes, they’re gone forever. But if you take notes digitally, you can back them up using Google Drive, iCloud, drop box etc. This extra level of security is really comforting, and also it means that you can access notes from other computers or iPads. You can also share notes with coursemates a lot easier than if your were using paper notes.

Better for the environment

Using a digital page doesn’t require cutting down nearly as many trees as using a physical sheet of paper, so this one is definitely a good reason if you’re interested in being more eco friendly. At first I thought that it might be worse for the environment due to it using electricity. But according to The Environmental Paper Network, using an iPad for an hour only uses 3 watts of electricity, which is equivalent to 0.004 pounds of carbon gas, compared to 0.03 pounds of carbon gas for a sheet of paper. So it’s still more economically friendly to use an iPad.

Add images and diagrams to your notes easily

Suck at drawing diagrams? Just get one from the internet and easily insert it, without having to print it or copy it down. Save on ink and save on time! This is really useful when studying subjects like anatomy, because you can annotate images really easily.

Adding links

Another thing that you can’t do with paper notes is link to other notes or websites. Being able to insert links into your notes can be really useful when you need additional information, or you want to link to a video that explains a concept really well.

Benefits of Paper Note-Taking

Cheaper than buying lots of tech

The cost of laptops and tablets can really add up, and not everyone will be able to afford everything. Whilst there are benefits to studying digitally, it is possible to do so without a tablet. You will probably need a laptop/computer though for writing reports or essays.

Your notebook can’t run out of charge

The feeling of arriving at your lecture just as your laptop dies is not familiar for those who using notebooks to study. Digital notetaking therefore requires more prior preparation e.g. remembering to put your devices on charge before a class.

There’s just something about writing on paper

I use the Paperlike screen protector on my iPad, and even though I love it, it’s still never going to feel the exact same as writing on paper. I still make some notes on paper, particularly mindmaps.

Less eye strain

Digital studying can cause screen time to really add up and isn’t suitable for long days of studying/late night studying, as the blue light emitted from the device screens can disturb your circadian rhythm.

Popular Note-Taking Apps of Tablets

There’s such a range of note taking apps, with a range of features. I have only tried a few, but I will list all the ones that I’ve heard of! (check out my post comparing Goodnotes 5 and Notability)

  • Goodnotes 5
  • Notability
  • Notion
  • Evernote
  • Apple Notes
  • Microsoft OneNote

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