Experiment FindingsPDF Available

The Effect of Paraphrasing on Memory



The extent to which information is encoded influences how well learners remember (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine the mnemonic benefits of paraphrasing on memory. Participants were randomly assigned to either take notes verbatim from a historical text or to paraphrase the information as they took notes. After finishing the note-taking task, participants completed a short math test, which functioned as a distractor. Finally, participants completed a 15-question multiple-choice quiz that measured their recall of the text. The paraphrasing group scored significantly higher on both the factual-recognition and critical thinking questions, resulting in a higher overall score on the recall test as compared to the verbatim note-taking group. Results show that paraphrasing while reading can enhance learners’ memories, as participants who paraphrased remembered more of the information from the reading, and they were more likely to draw accurate logical conclusions from their reading. By paraphrasing, learners pay more attention to the text because they need to understand and correctly evaluate its meaning. As learners obtain a thorough grasp of the reading material, they retain information better (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). As a result, paraphrasers have longer-lasting memory traces than those in the verbatim note-takers.
The Effect of Paraphrasing on Memory
Uyen Nghi Nguyen Thai
Lycoming College
The extent to which information is encoded influences how well learners remember (Craik &
Lockhart, 1972). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine the mnemonic benefits of
paraphrasing on memory. Participants were randomly assigned either to take notes verbatim
from a historical text or to paraphrase the information as they took notes. After finishing the
note-taking task, participants completed a short math test, which functioned as a distractor.
Finally, participants completed a 15-question multiple-choice quiz that measured their recall of
the text. The paraphrasing group scored significantly higher on both the factual-recognition and
critical-thinking questions, resulting in a higher overall score on the recall test as compared to the
verbatim note-taking group. Results show that paraphrasing while reading can enhance learners’
memories, as participants who paraphrased remembered more of the information from the
reading, and they were more likely to draw accurate logical conclusions from their reading. By
paraphrasing, learners pay more attention to the text because they need to understand and
correctly evaluate its meaning. When learners obtain a thorough grasp of the reading material,
they retain information better (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). As a result, paraphrasers have longer-
lasting memory traces than the verbatim note-takers.
The Effect of Paraphrasing on Memory
Memory is a vast term that reflects the human brain’s various abilities to retain
information. It is the ability not only to transmit information to the brain and actively maintain it,
but also to retrieve the information when needed. Specifically, encoding is the first stage in the
production of memory and is responsible for converting a sensory stimulus into a format that can
be kept inside the brain (Nairne, 2014). Notably, due to learners’ encoding strategies rather than
the inherent capacity of their own memory, some learners might yield better recall of information
than others (Benjamin, 2007). Therefore, the decision that one makes to study novel information
may influence one’s ability to recall. For example, learners who are actively engaged in the
course content during their learning phase remember better than those who passively read or
skim through the material (Storm, Hickman, & Bjork, 2016). In a study conducted by Rogers,
Kuiper, and Kirker (1977), participants who examined the meaning of words (semantic) recalled
significantly better than those who evaluated the surface characteristic of words in a recall test,
either by focusing on whether the word was capitalized (structural) or whether it sounded similar
to another word (phonemic). This shows that the assessing words’ meaning helped participants
learn better than assessment of wordssurface characteristics.
Because the decision that learners make has an overall effect on their memories, it is
necessary for them to consider appropriate learning techniques that strengthen their memories
during the memory formation process. According to Benjamin (2007), the strategy by which
learners encode new information affects how well they remember later. This has been introduced
and tested in the depth of processing framework by Craik and Lockhart (1972). These
researchers argue that memory traces depend on how carefully learners examine a sensory
stimulus. In their experiment, they randomly assigned participants to three processing-of-
information conditions: structural, phonemic, and semantic. In the structural condition,
participants indicated how a word looks, while in the phonemic condition, participants examined
how it sounds. The third group, which was the semantic condition, evaluated the meaning of a
word by categorizing it into a sentence. Results showed that participants in the semantic
condition retained more information than those in the structural and phonemic condition.
Therefore, semantic processing is deep processing because learners analyze caefully and pay
more attention to the sensory stimulus to understand a word’s meaning (Craik & Lockhart,
1972). By contrast, examining the structural or the phonemic condition of words does not have
an effect on memory, because learners solely focus on the surface characteristics of words.
Hence, they are involved in shallow processing. According to Craik and Lockhart (1972), deep
processing promotes the recall of information better than shallow processing.
However, the level of processing framework also faces criticism from other cognitive
psychologists. For example, Eysenck (1978) indicated that this framework has not fully showed
why deep processing, or specifically semantic encoding enhances memory. Later, Bransford and
his colleagues (1979) found that deep processing improves memory because it encourages
learners to elaborate on the content. Specifically, when learners evaluate the meaning of a novel
information, they might link their prior knowledge to that information to make it meaningful for
their understanding (Bradshaw & Anderson, 1982; Bransford et al., 1979). And because learners
use their own knowledge to decode the meaning of new information, that might be more
discernible to the learners’ brains and thus is easily recalled (Bransford et al., 1979). This
functions in a similar way to how distinctive objects are recognizable to our eyes (Craik, 2002).
Second, it could be that elaborate information is integrated with a person’s organized mental
structure of knowledge. This well-built integration could effectively aid learners in the
information retrieval process (Moscovitch & Craik, 1976). Overall, semantic processing is an
elaborative encoding strategy and facilitates memory formation.
Several research studies on writing across the curriculum have shown that writing
functions as an effective way to aid the recall of information (Boyles, Killian, and Rileigh, 1994;
Nevid, Pastva, & McClelland, 2012). For example, students who completed in-class writing
assignments scored better on the final exam than those who did not (Boyles, Killian, and Rileigh,
1994). Similarly, students who wrote journal reflections and generic writing assignments
remembered more key ideas for the final exam than those who did not (Nevid, Pastva, &
McClelland, 2012). When students are introduced to new information, they might not understand
it immediately (Nevid et al., 2012). Hence, writing is a great way to bridge the gap between
learners and learning novel content, because it expects learners to retrieve knowledge from their
long-term memories to interpret the new data in a meaningful way (Nevid et al., 2012). This also
means that as learners write about a topic, they are involved in an elaborative encoding process
(Kiewra et al., 1993). As a result, writing promotes the positive effect of elaborative encoding on
memory and helps students remember more about the topic on which they wrote.
In contrast to the formal writing assignment, note-taking is a type of informal writing.
Students use this technique to jot down important ideas while reading a text or listening to a
lecture. Past research has been mixed regarding the effect of note-taking on memory during the
encoding process. For example, Kiewra and colleagues (1993) proposed that note-taking helps
learners actively engage in the text, rather than passively reading it. However, some research
shows that note-taking does not facilitate memory or even hinders students from learning main
ideas during lecture time (Ash & Carlton, 1953; McClendon, 1956). Researchers who found no
beneficial effect of note-taking on memory imply that note-takers might not know how to capture
key ideas from the material to their notes (McClendon, 1956). In order for the notes to be
effective, learners need to be instructed on how to take notes or obtain an appropriate note-taking
strategy (Jansen, Lakens, & Ijsselsteijn, 2017).
Researchers have examined the effect of note-taking strategies on learners’ abilities to
recall by directly giving participants a specific note-taking guideline (Jansen, Lakens, &
Ijsselsteijn, 2017). For example, participants in one group were required to take organized notes
from the lecture on computers by paraphrasing and organizing the information, instead of typing
the note verbatim. The result in this study shows that when laptop users took notes, those who
had organized notes outperformed those who transcribed notes in a 48-hour delayed test (Bui,
Myerson, & Hale, 2013). Likewise, Mueller and Openheimer (2014) conducted a research study
on the use of laptops compared to handwriting notes during a lecture. These researchers found
that without the opportunity to review notes, handwriting note-takers outperformed laptop note-
takers in a 48-hour delayed recall test (Mueller & Openheimer, 2014). The difference in test
performance between the two groups is due to the note-taking styles: handwriting note-takers
paraphrased the information from the audio lecture, while laptop note-takers took verbatim notes
(Mueller & Openheimer, 2014). Overall, both empirical studies have shown that regardless of the
note-taking method, the quality of learners’ notes, or specifically, how learners take notes, may
influence their power of recall. Particularly, this research also suggests that paraphrasing might
be a beneficial note-taking strategy.
Paraphrasing is a writing and note-taking technique that requires learners to restate a
sentence or a paragraph in their own words. Learners successfully paraphrase when they change
the vocabulary and grammatical structure in a sentence; however, the meaning of the new
sentence should remain the same as the original one (McCarthy, Guess, & McNamara, 2009).
Before learners paraphrase the information from a learning material, they have to ensure that
their understanding of it is accurate (Glover et al., 1981). Thus, paraphrasers try to grasp the
material thoroughly before writing, instead of transcribing what they hear or read. Bretzing and
Kulhavy (1979) conducted research on note-taking strategies by assigning participants to
summarize, paraphrase, or take verbatim notes from the text. Later, they found that students who
paraphrased or summarized their notes outperformed those who took verbatim notes in both the
48-hour delayed and immediate test (Bretzing & Kulhavy, 1979). This research study is
consistent with the result from the level of processing framework by showing that participants
who paraphrased their notes recalled more information than verbatim note-takers. When
paraphrasing, participants must have engaged in the elaborative encoding process and thus
remembered more important details.
The purpose of the current study is to examine whether different note-taking strategies,
such as paraphrasing or writing verbatim, improve memory formation. The current study
expands on the research of Bretzing and Kulhavy (1979), who found that summarizing and
paraphrasing improved recall rates compared to verbatim note-taking. In this research, learners
were asked to complete only lower-order thinking (factual-recognition and basic comprehension)
questions. However, today’s college students are not only tested on their memorization of factual
information but also on their abilities to think critically, such as recognizing and evaluating an
evidence. Hence, in the present research study participants are expected to complete both lower-
order and higher-order (critical thinking) questions. Finally, because this study focuses more on
the effect that note-taking styles have on memory during the encoding process, participants are
not given a review session to study their notes. This helps rule out any potential effect of
repetitive learning on memory. I hypothesize that participants who paraphrase the assigned text
while taking notes will perform better on the delayed test than those who only write their notes
verbatim, because the former group will understand the overall meaning of the passage before
they write in their own words.
Thirty undergraduate students at a private liberal arts college in Central Pennsylvania
participated in this study. Participants consisted of 24 females and six males ranging in ages from
18 to 22 years (M = 19.43, SD = 1.33). No participants had learning disabilities. Participants
were informed about the study in their Introductory Psychology class and in casual
conversations. In addition to a verbal announcement, participants were recruited through flyers
hung around the campus. Participants received course credit or extra credit, at their professors
discretion, in compensation for their participation in this study.
The current study was a between-subjects, posttest-only design. In this study, the
independent variable was a note-taking strategy, and it was defined as different ways and
techniques to record selectively key ideas and the significant information by handwriting while
reading. Participants in both groups were randomly assigned to one of the two levels of the
independent variable through block randomization. In group 1, participants took verbatim notes
by selectively copying key phrases verbatim or sentences from the reading that they considered
important. In group 2, participants paraphrased the critical information by rewriting sentences
and ideas in their own words. There were three dependent variables in this study. The first
dependent variable was the participants’ overall scores on the 15-item comprehension test. The
second and the third were participants’ scores on the lower-order thinking and higher-order
thinking questions.
The necessary materials in this study consisted of an undergraduate-level reading
passage, a 15-item comprehension test, a math test, and a demographic survey.
Reading material. The assigned text was comprised of two different historical passages,
but both described the unjustness of the American-Vietnam war. The total length of the reading
material was 970 words. The first passage (Southey, 2018) discussed reasons why Muhamad Ali,
a famous heavyweight boxing champion, refused to take part in the American-Vietnam war. The
second passage (Southey, 2018) was a brief report by John Kerry, a former US Navy Lieutenant
and a spokesperson for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. His testimony presented before the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee explained the unrighteousness of the American-Vietnam
war. The two passages were typed double space on the same paper. Each had the word “Passage
1” or “Passage 2” for participants to differentiate the two texts.
Prior to the experiement, four pilot participants were asked to read and take notes on
three texts in different fields: History, Economics, and Environmental Studies. Each text had a
pair of dual passages, which were written by two different authors but illustrated the same topic.
This decision was made because people need to gather and critically understand the diverse
information that they were working with when a single source of information was not sufficient
for comprehension; furthermore, even adult readers found that reading and integrating
information across mutliple sources challenging (Brten et al., 2014; Tarchi & Mason, 2019).
Finally, they completed a short quiz that tested their text comprehension.
Results from the pilot test showed that participants had little prior knowledge in History,
and most participants wrote an average of six words per line. Therefore, six words were chosen
to be the minimal amount of words that participants needed to write in a line, and History was
selected to be the reading material’s topic in the official research study. This helped minimize
potential effects of prior knowledge on participant performance.
Math test. This test functioned as a distraction task. The math test included eight
questions, which were basic mathematical formulas. There were two free-response and six
multiple-choice questions, in which four choices were provided for participants.
Comprehension test. The comprehension test consisted of 15 multiple-choice questions,
and each question had four choices. This test examined participants’ understanding and recall of
the reading on which they had just taken notes. The type of questions was categorized into
lower-order thinking (recall and comprehension) and higher-order thinking (critical thinking)
questions. There were 10 lower-order thinking questions, which varied from factual-recognition
to reading comprehension. These items tested participants’ abilities to recall events from the text
correctly and to understand the message of some specific sentence. Five higher-order thinking
questions measured students’ critical thinking skills. These asked participants to draw a logical
conclusion based on the context or to evaluate the relationship between two passages. The
potential scores on this test varied from 0 to 15, with a higher overall score on the test indicating
that participants recalled important details and had a thorough grasp of both passages.
Independent scores for both higher-order and lower-order thinking items were recorded. A
higher score on lower-order thinking questions meant that participants could accurately
remember main ideas. Finally, a higher score on higher-order thinking questions suggested that
participants could form rational and reasonable judgments based on textual evidence.
Demographic survey. The survey asked participants to report their age, sex, and class
Participants read the informed consent and then were randomly assigned to the Writing
verbatim or the Paraphrasing group through block randomization. Prior to the note-taking task,
the experimenter reminded participants to carefully read and follow the instructions provided in
their guidelines. Participants had 15 minutes to read the text and take note of important details. In
the Writing verbatim group, participants were instructed to take notes by copying some original
sentences that they considered important to their notes. In the Paraphrasing group, participants
were required to rewrite key ideas and sentences that they believed helpful for the test in their
own words. A clear definition and specific examples of how to write verbatim or paraphrase
were clarified in the guidelines. Participants were also encouraged to review and compare their
notes with the original text if they finished writing before the 15-minute time period elapsed. As
long as participants in both groups wrote six words in a line and complied with the provided
instruction, there would be no restriction for the length of their notes. Additionally, because the
format of writing was not limited participants could either use abbreviation or symbols to express
their ideas. As participants finished the note-taking task, their reading materials and notes were
collected. Next, they were asked to complete a simple math test for 10 minutes. This was placed
immediately after the note-taking task and just before the 15-item comprehension test to create a
delayed condition and prevent participants from studying for the test. Afterward, participants
were given the 15-item comprehension test, and they had 15 minutes to complete their test.
Finally, the experimenter debriefed participants. Both participant assignment sheets and notes
were numerically coded by numbering one or two. The former number indicated paraphrasing
condition while the latter indicated writing verbatim condition.
Data were quantified as the proportion of questions correctly answered overall on the 15-
item comprehension test. Specifically, data were quantified as the proportion of accurate answers
on both lower-order and higher-order thinking questions. The compliance of participants was
evaluated based on two criteria. The first criterion was whether they wrote 6 words per line. The
second criterion was whether participants paraphrased 50 percent of their notes (for the
Paraphrasing group). Paraphrasers were previously instructed that they could use original words
from the text only if they could not find any alternative words to change. Notably, specific terms,
personal names, place-name, and vocabularies that were central to the text were not counted as
verbatim writing. Repeated use of words, for examples, “Vietnam”, “American”, “die” or “body”
was allowed in this case.
Data from two participants in the Paraphrasing group were removed from the analysis
because they did not paraphrase 50% of their notes. Thus, the Paraphrasing and the Writing
verbatim group had 15 participants in each group. As hypothesized, the results of an independent
sample t-test revealed that the mean overall score of participants who paraphrased (M = 76.88,
SD = 14.87) was significantly higher than the mean overall score of participants who wrote their
notes verbatim from the text (M = 57.33, SD = 12.79), t(28) = -3.85, p = .001.
In addition, the specific score for each type of question (factual-recognition and critical
thinking) was also recorded. As hypothesized, the mean factual-recognition score of participants
who paraphrased (M = 74.00, SD = 17.64) was significantly higher than the mean factual-
recognition score of participants who wrote their notes verbatim from the text (M = 54.66, SD =
19.95), t(28) = -2.81, p = .009. Finally, participants who paraphrased (M = 82.66, SD = 16.67)
also had significantly higher mean critical-thinking scores than participants who wrote their
notes verbatim from the text (M = 62.66, SD = 14.86), t(28) = -3.46, p = .002
All things considered, the paraphrasing note-taking strategy significantly enhanced test
performance, with the Paraphrasing group showing higher overall scores on the 15-item
comprehension test than those in the Verbatim group. Specifically, participants who paraphrased
the information from the text scored higher on both factual-recognition and critical thinking
questions than those who wrote verbatim notes. Overall, these results support the hypothesis that
participants who paraphrase their notes yield superior recall of information and demonstrate
better critical-thinking skills.
This result is in line with the research on level of processing framework, which states that
greater involvement in the learning material produces long-lasting memory traces (Craik &
Lockhart, 1972). When learners evaluate the meaning of information, they are involved in
semantic processing, which means that they analyze the learning content at a deeper level.
Hence, they remember it longer. By contrast, learners who solely focus on the exterior
characteristics of a word, such as its structure and rhyme, are involved in the shallow processing
of information (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). Unsurprisingly, they remember less information. In the
current study, participants in the Paraphrasing group showed a higher overall score than those in
the Writing verbatim group. This happened because participants in the Paraphrasing group were
asked to take notes by restating the information from the assigned text in their own words. In
order to fulfill this requirement, they had to investigate main ideas in both of the passages and
understand these thoroughly before rewriting. As a result, they engaged in a semantic analysis,
which is also a deeper level of processing information. By contrast, those in the Writing verbatim
group copied original sentences from the passage to their notes. Consequently, they might focus
on whether the copied sentence looks identical the original one. This could mean that verbatim
note-takers are more concerned about surface characteristics rather than the content of their
notes. Based on the conclusion from the level of processing framework, it is not surprising that
participants in the Paraphrasing group yielded better recall than those in the Writing verbatim
In addition, the Paraphrasing group also outperformed the Verbatim writing group on
factual-recognition questions. This result is consistent with the past research on the
distinctiveness of encoding, which states that information processed at a deeper level is more
memorable (Glover et al., 1981). In this study, paraphrasers recalled better than verbatim note-
takers because the former might be able to draw a clear distinction between important ideas and
unrelated ideas from the text. In order to paraphrase successfully, participants need to read the
text carefully and try to understand its overall meaning (Glover et al., 1981). This helps them
focus on a specific set of information, instead of trying to remember every detail. Thus,
paraphrasers might have more time to elaborate on the new reading content by using their prior
knowledge to interpret it. According to Jacoby and Craik (1979), when an object or information
is meticulously described, it becomes more distinctive and easily recognized among similar
objects or information. In this study, paraphrasers’ notes were written in their own words,
meaning that these might contain meaningful ideas and more distinctive details. Thus,
paraphrased notes bolster participants’ abilities to retrieve the information from their long-term
memories. Conversely, notes that include verbatim sentences might not present distinctive ideas.
Therefore, learners who took verbatim notes might have higher chance of forgetting the reading
content faster.
Finally, the paraphrasing note-taking strategy also improved participantsperformance on
critical thinking questions. In general, this research shows results similar to those in previous
experimental and correlational studies on note-taking by confirming that verbatim, rather than
non-verbatim note-taking is predictive of poorer test performance, when the test concerns
conceptual-level, high-order thinking questions (Aiken, Thomas, & Shennum, 1976); Bretzing &
Kulhavy, 1979; Slotte & Lonka, 1999). Also, the current finding supports the notion that higher-
order thinking questions require extra attention to the reading content (Kiewra, 1987). To apply
the paraphrasing strategy effectively, extra attention is indeed required and may thus account for
the improved performance of participants in this group. In order to paraphrase, participants must
have read the passage several times before restating the information in their own words. As they
keep reading the text, they become more attentive to the reading material. Perhaps, this allows
participants to extract important details from each of the passages to compare and evaluate.
Consequently, participants in the Paraphrasing group have more integrative understanding of the
relationship between the two passages. On the other hand, verbatim note-takers might have
focused on whether or not they accurately copied the text to their notes. Compared to
paraphrasing notetakers, verbatim note-takers process the information at a shallow level. And
because these participants are not expected to comprehend the two passages as in the case of the
Paraphrasing group, they are more likely to engage in a less cognitively demanding task. This
means that their notes might have more redundant information and thus hinder them from
synthesizing ideas from the two texts effectively. As a result, they are more likely to choose the
wrong answer when being asked about the relationship between two passages or inferential
Although the present study focuses on the effect of paraphrasing note-taking strategy at
the encoding stage, it is difficult to say if the encoding strategy leads to the superior recall of
participants in the Paraphrasing group. When learners successfully remember information, it
means that all the three stages in the process of memory production occur (Nainre, 2014).
According to Craik and Jacoby (1979), deep processing of information also provides distinctive
features that help learners to remember information better. This means that well-encoded
information might also function as an appropriate retrieval cue and that learners activate their
schema of past learning and experiences to match the new test condition (Jacoby & Craik, 1979).
One limitation of the study is the number of participants. Even though all the current
findings from this study provide insights into the relationship between cognitive efforts and note-
taking strategies, it would be better if the data collection process occurred over the course of
several sessions. In other words, a larger and more diverse sample of participants could increase
the power of this research. Finally, although the results of the pilot testing show that participants
seem to have little prior knowledge in History, it might be better to have a manipulation check,
which could be an exit question at the end of the test. The purpose of this is to see whether or not
participants knew 50% or more of the information in the assigned text, prior to the test. Thus,
individual differences can be less detrimental to the present research study.
The current study has shown that the paraphrasing note-taking strategy significantly
improves test performance on both higher-order and lower-order thinking questions. Still, it is
unknown whether paraphrasing aids reading skills. Therefore, a future study might examine
whether paraphrasing enhances reading comprehension skills, especially with learners whose
reading abilities are low. Specifically, experimenters could design a within-subject pre-test-post-
test experiment, with a pre-test section measuring participants reading abilities. Next, the
experimenter would choose readers with the lowest reading comprehension skill as participants.
Finally, they would randomly assign these participants into two groups: Paraphrasing and
Verbatim Writing. Participants in both groups would be given the same text to read. However,
one group would restate the factual information from the text in their notes while the other would
write verbatim notes. To this end, a 2 (reading comprehension ability) x 2 (note-taking strategy)
between-subjects factorial design should be conducted in the future. This experimental design
helps better address the question regarding the effect of paraphrasing on learners whose reading
comprehension skills are poor.
Another future study that might benefit both students and teachers could hinge on the
note-taking strategy across lecture modalities. In the current study, paraphrasing may be
advantageous as a note-taking strategy for students who learn through reading materials.
However, this has not been tested under different learning conditions. For example, it is
unknown whether Paraphrasing note-taking strategies influence learnersmemories under
auditory learning (audio lecture) differently from visual learning (visual lecture) conditions.
Experimenters might conduct a 2 x 2 between-subject factorial design to examine the effect of
paraphrasing on memory under different learning conditions. In this experiment, there would be
four groups in total. The first two groups would consist of participants learning in the auditory
condition, and both groups would listen to the lecture. However, one group would take notes
verbatim from the lecture, while the other would paraphrase the information from it. Next,
another two groups would be placed in the visual learning condition. Similarly, one group would
take notes verbatim by copying the information from the text to their notes, whereas the second
group in this condition would paraphrase the information from the text.
Overall, paraphrasing the information from the reading material facilitates memory
formation, irrespective of the question types. Whether it is low-order thinking or high-ordser
thinking questions, participants who paraphrase their notes achieve better test performance than
those who take notes verbatim. This result is helpful in helping students focus on the quality of
their notes rather than skimming the passage. It also encourages students to read the text more
carefully to figure out central ideas in the passage and the communicative intention of the author.
As a result, learners might be able to extract important details from the reading and thus recall
the learning material better, instead of trying to remember every detail or unimportant
information. In summary, the Paraphrasing note-taking strategy supports learners to integrate
new information better into their own perception.
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Students completed brief, ungraded writing assignments in several introductory psychology classes across two semesters. The assignments varied across classes with respect to type of assignment (reflective vs. generic writing) and choice of topics (student selected from specified list vs. assigned topics from list). Students performed significantly better on exam questions relating to the content of the writing assignments than to unrelated content. Writing benefits extended across both type of writing assignment and choice of topics. The results suggest that writing-to-learn assignments can bolster learning effects without adding undue burdens on instructors seeking to integrate writing-across-the curriculum objectives, even in larger introductory psychology courses.
The purpose of this study was to test the relationships between critical thinking, prior topic knowledge and beliefs, and multiple-document comprehension through a path analysis approach. The participants were 281 Italian undergraduate students. Participants first completed a rational-experiential inventory, a critical thinking skills test, a prior topic knowledge test, and a prior topic beliefs test. Then, they were asked to read six documents on the topic of flue vaccination. After reading the texts, students were asked to write an argumentative essay on the topic as a measure of multiple-document comprehension. The hypothesized model fit the data well. Results confirmed that argumentation quality after reading six documents with different perspectives on the topic is associated to different critical thinking skills in stronger-versus weaker-belief readers. In weaker-belief readers, multiple-document comprehension was associated with deduction skills, whereas in stronger-belief readers multiple-document comprehension was associated with hypothesis-testing skills. Both theoretical and educational implications of the results are discussed.
Students frequently engage in note-taking to improve the amount of information they remember from lectures. One beneficial effect of note-taking is known as the encoding effect, which refers to deeper processing of information as a consequence of taking notes. This review consists of two parts. In the first part, four lines of research on the encoding effect are summarized: 1) manipulation of the lecture material, 2) manipulation of the method of note-taking, 3) the importance of individual differences, and 4) the testing procedure used in the empirical studies. This review highlights the fragmented nature of the current literature. In the second part of this review five forms of cognitive load that are induced by note-taking are distinguished. Cognitive load theory is used to integrate the divergent results in the literature. Based on the review, it is concluded that cognitive load theory provides a useful framework for future theory development and experimental work.
Information that is produced or generated during learning is better remembered than information that is passively read, a phenomenon known as the generation effect. Prior research by deWinstanley and Bjork (Memory & Cognition, 32, 945–955, 2004) has shown that learners, after experiencing the memorial benefits of generation in the context of a fill-in-the-blank test following the study of a text passage containing both to-be-read and to-be-generated items, become more effective encoders of to-be-read items on a second passage, thus eliminating the generation effect on a subsequent memory test. Current explanations of this phenomenon assume that learners need to actually experience the generation advantage on the test of the first passage to become more effective encoders of to-be-read items on the second passage. The results of the present research, however, suggest otherwise. Although experiencing a test of the first passage does appear to be critical for leading participants to become better encoders on the second passage, experiencing a generation advantage on the test for the first passage is not. More generally, these results shine new light on the generation effect as well as how and why taking tests has the potential to improve subsequent learning.
In five experiments, we consistently found that items included in summaries were better remembered than items omitted from summaries. We did not, however, find evidence that summary writing was better than merely restudying the text. These patterns held with shorter and longer texts, when the text was present or absent during the summary writing, with both short answer and multiple choice criterion tests, with a brief delay prior to the final test or with a several day delay, and regardless of whether the summary was written immediately after reading the text or after a short time away from the text. We additionally found evidence that writing a summary sometimes helped participants estimate how much they learned from the text. However, it seems that students do not write effective summaries because they are quite poor at picking out the important points from the text.
The goal of this chapter is to provide a beginning sketch of the view that the successes and failures of memory are a reflection of skill in interacting with memory effectively, rather than an expression of inherent qualities or liabilities of memory itself. The first goal is to expand the purview of memory research by considering the cognitive contexts in which memory behavior is situated. The second and concurrent goal of the chapter is about the nature of memory itself. This goal represents an explicit attempt to reduce the proliferation of memory systems and memory processes. Finally, this chapter reviews examples of how particular capacities of memory can be conceptualized as interactions between a quite simple memory system and a set of higher level control processes that are diverse and varied.
Three experiments examined note-taking strategies and their relation to recall. In Experiment 1, participants were instructed either to take organized lecture notes or to try and transcribe the lecture, and they either took their notes by hand or typed them into a computer. Those instructed to transcribe the lecture using a computer showed the best recall on immediate tests, and the subsequent experiments focused on note-taking using computers. Experiment 2 showed that taking organized notes produced the best recall on delayed tests. In Experiment 3, however, when participants were given the opportunity to study their notes, those who had tried to transcribe the lecture showed better recall on delayed tests than those who had taken organized notes. Correlational analyses of data from all 3 experiments revealed that for those who took organized notes, working memory predicted note-quantity, which predicted recall on both immediate and delayed tests. For those who tried to transcribe the lecture, in contrast, only note-quantity was a consistent predictor of recall. These results suggest that individuals who have poor working memory (an ability traditionally thought to be important for note-taking) can still take effective notes if they use a note-taking strategy (transcribing using a computer) that can help level the playing field for students of diverse cognitive abilities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students' capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers' tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.