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Note Taking, Review, Memory, and Comprehension


Abstract and Figures

In previous work assessing memory at various levels of representation, namely the surface form, textbase, and situation model levels, participants read texts but were otherwise not actively engaged with the texts. The current study tested the influence of active engagement with the material via note taking, along with the opportunity to review such notes, and the modality of presentation (text vs. spoken). The influence of these manipulations was assessed both immediately and 1 week later. In Experiment 1 participants read a text, whereas in Experiment 2 participants watched a video recording of the material being read as a lecture. For each experiment the opportunity to take notes was manipulated within participants, and the opportunity to review these notes before the test was manipulated between participants. Note taking improved performance at the situation model level in both experiments, although there was also some suggestion of benefit for the surface form. Thus, active engagement with material, such as note taking, appears to have the greatest benefit at the deeper levels of understanding.
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The American Journal of Psychology
The American Journal of Psychology
Volume 124 Number 1 Spring 2011
Volume 124 Number 1 Spring 2011
Founded in 1887 by G. Stanley Hall
Edited by Robert W. Proctor Purdue University
Book Reviews Dominic W. Massaro University of California, Santa Cruz
Obituaries and History of Psychology Alfred H. Fuchs Bowdoin College
American Journal of Psychology
Spring 2011, Vol. 124, No. 1 pp. 63–73 • © 2011 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Note Taking, Review, Memory,
and Comprehension
University of Notre Dame
Florida State University
University of Notre Dame
In previous work assessing memory at various levels of representation, namely the surface form,
textbase, and situation model levels, participants read texts but were otherwise not actively
engaged with the texts. The current study tested the influence of active engagement with the
material via note taking, along with the opportunity to review such notes, and the modality
of presentation (text vs. spoken). The influence of these manipulations was assessed both im-
mediately and 1 week later. In Experiment 1 participants read a text, whereas in Experiment 2
participants watched a video recording of the material being read as a lecture. For each experi-
ment the opportunity to take notes was manipulated within participants, and the opportunity
to review these notes before the test was manipulated between participants. Note taking im-
proved performance at the situation model level in both experiments, although there was also
some suggestion of benefit for the surface form. Thus, active engagement with material, such as
note taking, appears to have the greatest benefit at the deeper levels of understanding.
One of the dominant ideas about language compre-
hension and memory is that people represent infor-
mation at multiple levels, namely the surface form,
textbase, and situation model levels (van Dijk & 
Kintsch, 1983). In short, the surface form is a per-
son’s verbatim memory of the words and syntax used.
The textbase is a representation of the abstract idea
units conveyed by language apart from the surface
form. Finally, the situation model is a person’s refer-
ential understanding of the described events. This
serves as a mental simulation and can include inferred
knowledge as well as information that was explicitly
presented (see also Johnson-Laird, 1983; Zwaan & 
Radvansky, 1998). These three levels of representa-
tion are important because they dierentially con-
tribute to memory and comprehension (Kintsch,
Welsch, Schmalhofer, & Zimny, 1990; Radvansky, 
Zwaan, Curiel, & Copeland, 2001). The aim of the 
current study was to assess the inuence of increased
active engagement with a text via note taking, the op-
portunity to review such notes, and the inuence of
modality of presentation.
The bulk of the work on processing at these levels
of representation has focused on the reading of writ-
ten texts. More recent work on cognition has taken 
a more functionalist approach, looking at how peo-
ple’s interaction with the environment aects their
cognition. This includes research on embodied and
grounded cognition (Barsalou, 1999, 2007; Glenberg, 
1997; Wilson, 2002) that shows that a person’s sen-
sorimotor interactions with the world guide thought,
research on how memory has evolved to favor pro-
cessing of information that is relevant for survival
(Nairne & Pandeirada, 2008; Nairne, Pandeirada, 
& Thompson, 2008; Nairne, Thompson, & Pandei-
rada, 2007), and research on how the structure of the 
environment itself can alter basic cognitive processes,
such as memory (Copeland, Magliano, & Radvan-
sky, 2006; Radvansky & Copeland, 2006). For com-
prehension and memory, people can engage more
actively with a text by doing more than just reading.
One way to do this is by taking notes. Note taking 
increases the degree to which a person attends to the
text, noting which ideas need to be jotted down and
which are better left unnoted. Thus, by more actively
engaging the reader with the material to be learned,
note taking may improve memory over conditions
when no notes are taken.
It is clear that note taking can improve later per-
formance (Annis, 1975; Dyer, Riley, & Yekovich, 1979; 
Slotte & Lonka, 1999; Ward & Tatsukawa, 2003; see 
Hartley, 1983, and Hartley & Davies, 1978, for a re-
view of this literature), both with text comprehension 
and spoken lecture tasks (Nye, Crooks, Powley, & 
Tripp, 1984; Slotte & Lonka, 1999). That said, note 
taking is often not an idealized representation of the
information, and even successful students do not re-
cord most of the important ideas (Kiewra, 1985). So 
the nature of the impact it is having on later perfor-
mance is unclear.
  Our aim was to understand how the act of note 
taking, as a way to increase engagement has with in-
formation, aects processing at the various levels of
representation. Several general possibilities are con-
sidered. First, it may be that the act of note taking itself
creates a dual task situation that redirects cognitive
resources that would otherwise be devoted to other
memory and comprehension processes and sends
them to the actions of scribbling something down. If
so, then note taking may compromise performance,
particularly at the situation model level, which re-
quires a person to integrate information that is being
presented along with inferences that are generated.
Thus, note taking may orient readers more toward
lower levels of processing because of increased at-
tentional focus at this level (Peper & Mayer, 1978). 
This would occur at the cost of the situation model
level (Zwaan, 1994).
Alternatively, it has been suggested that, during
note taking, people elaborate on the material (Einstein, 
Morris, & Smith, 1985; Ward & Tatsukawa, 2003), with 
greater mental organization (Einstein et al., 1985) lead-
ing to improved memory (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). 
If so, then one would expect to see improved perfor-
mance on the situation model level, as this is the level
where such elaboration is often done.
Because notes are often intended for later review,
they are, in some sense, self-generated memory cues.
Therefore, a further role that note taking may play is to
aid later performance (Oakhill & Davies, 1991; Slotte 
& Lonka, 1999), even if the notes are not one’s own 
(Annis, 1975; Kiewra, 1985), by reminding a person 
of various aspects of the information. Additionally,
reviewing notes can serve as another learning trial,
thereby boosting memory performance. However, it
is unclear at what level this assistance would occur. It
could be that note review aids lower levels, such as the
surface form or textbase, because this specic mate-
rial is being exposed to a person once again through
the act of reviewing the notes. Alternatively, it may be
that review provides another opportunity for deeper
processing and elaboration, which would benet the
situation model level.
Briey, the aim of the current study was to assess
the inuence on memory, in terms of which level of rep-
resentation is most aected, when people were more
engaged during comprehension by taking notes. We
also assessed at what level the notes themselves serve as
memory cues to boost performance. Additionally, we
assessed performance from information learned in dif-
ferent media, because theories of comprehension have
been also been applied to video, lm, and interactive
video games (Copeland et al., 2006; Magliano, Rad-
vansky, & Copeland, 2007; Zacks, Speer, & Reynolds, 
2009). Finally, to address the long-term impacts of such 
manipulations, we tested memory both immediately
after learning and  week later.
eXperiMent 1
The aim of Experiment 1 was to assess the inuence 
of a more active engagement with a text via note tak-
64  •  bohay et al.
ing for various levels of representation. Furthermore,
because people expect to use their notes later, we
also examined the impact of note review by allowing
one group to review their notes. Finally, we assessed
performance both immediately after reading and
week later.
Ninety-seven people (53% female) were recruited 
from the participant pool in the Department of Psy-
chology at the University of Notre Dame in exchange
for partial course credit. Forty-eight of these people
were not given the opportunity to review their notes
before testing, whereas the rest were.
There were three written texts. These texts covered
dierent topics: a summary of Waiting for Godot by
Samuel Beckett, an overview of the biological con-
cept of prions, and an overview of communism and
Russia’s economy from the s to the present. We
generated these texts using information from vari-
ous encyclopedia and Web-based sources (they were
reviewed and edited by two additional people for
coherence and clarity). Although there were three 
texts, each participant saw only two of them. These
texts were , , and  sentences (,, ,, and
1,392 words) long.
The memory measures were  four-alternative,
multiple-choice recognition test questions. For each
topic, there were three types of questions. First, there
were questions that had verbatim answers drawn di-
rectly from the texts. Second were questions with
correct answers that were paraphrases of what was
stated in the text. Finally, the third group of questions
had correct answers that required an inference to be
made about the topic that was not explicitly stated in
the text. There were ve questions for each of these
three types of answers. The question types were ran-
domly ordered for each test. There were two versions
of each test for each topic. One of these versions was 
used on the immediate test and the other for the de-
layed memory test. Both versions had  questions,
with the same distribution of question types. These
versions were counterbalanced across participants.
When participants arrived, they were given consent
forms and a survey for general demographic infor-
mation. They were then given instructions for the
experiment proper. They were told that they would
be reading two texts and that for each one they would
either take notes or not. In the no-notes condition,
people read the text but did not take notes. In the
written-notes condition, people took written notes
during reading.
Participants knew that their memory would be
tested. They were also told that they would be al-
lowed to review their notes before the test. For some
participants, no actual review was done, but they
were told that they would have this opportunity to
encourage them to take note taking seriously. The rest
of the participants were given  min to review their
notes for the one text for which notes were taken.
These participants were also given  min to review
their notes before the test after the -week delay.
After the notes were collected, participants took
two -question multiple-choice tests, corresponding
to the two texts that they read. The tests were pre-
sented in the same order in which the texts had been
read. A follow-up session  week later consisted of a
dierent set of  questions, which were also given in
the order in which the topics were read. There was
no time limit.
To assess the inuence of these manipulations on
the various levels of representation, we used a varia-
tion of the Schmalhofer and Glavanov (1986) analysis 
(see also Fletcher & Chrysler, 1990; Kintsch et al., 
1990; Radvansky, Copeland, & von Hippel, 2010; 
Radvansky, Copeland, & Zwaan, 2003; Radvansky et 
al., 2001; Zwaan, 1994). First, it should be noted that 
this analysis uses four types of items: verbatim items
taken directly from a text; paraphrases of information 
that was in the text but is now worded dierently,
inferences of information that were not explicitly
stated but are needed for the topic to be properly
understood, and incorrect items that are inconsis-
tent with a proper understanding of the material. The
primary variation used in the current study was a
four-alternative forced-choice test in which there was
a correct answer (either a verbatim, paraphrase, or
inference item) and three incorrect items.
This method uses a signal detection analysis,
in which performance on dierent items is used to
assess the dierent levels of representation. For the
surface form, positive responses to verbatim answers
are considered hits, and positive responses to para-
phrases are considered false alarms. This is done
not as a measure of how correct people are but as a
note taking and MeMory • 65
means of assessing the degree to which people use
dierent sources of knowledge. In this case, both the
verbatim and paraphrase answers can be answered
using situation model and textbase knowledge, but
only the verbatim answers can be directly boosted
by additional surface form knowledge because those
answers were actually present in the text. Thus, by
comparing performance on these two types of items
we can get a measure of the added benet of surface
form memory. Similarly, a comparison of the para-
phrase and inference answers provides an index of
the textbase because neither of these items was actu-
ally verbatim from the text, but only the paraphrases
capture ideas that were presented in the text, whereas
the inferences do not. Finally, a comparison of posi-
tive responses with inferences and incorrect answers
provides an index of the situation model because nei-
ther of these convey idea units that were actually in
the text, but only the inferences are consistent with
the information in the text and the incorrect answers
are not.
Prior Knowledge
The prior knowledge data showed that participants
had little or no previous familiarity with the material.
A scale ranging from  (no knowledge) to 5 (extensive
knowledge) was used. The familiarity ratings were 
M = 1.26 for Waiting for Godot, M = 1.30 for prions, 
and M = 1.36 for Russia. Analyses indicated that there 
was no signicant relationship between prior knowl-
edge and test performance.
The memory test accuracy data (Table 1) were used to 
calculate the A' measures (Table 2), which were submit-
ted to separate 2 (review or not)×2 (delay)× (note
condition) mixed s for each level of representa-
tion, with the rst variable being between participants
and the rest within. For the surface form measure, the
only signicant eect was the main eect of note condi-
tion, F(1, 95) = 5.18, MSE = 0.05,p = .03, with greater 
surface form memory when notes were taken (M = .58) 
than when they were not (M = .52).Essentially, when 
participants did not take notes, their performance
was at chance. Thus, note taking does boost verbatim
memory. The main eects of review and delay were not
signicant, F = 1.04 and F < , respectively, nor were
any of the interactions, all Fs < .
For the textbase level, there were no signicant
main eects of review, F(1, 95) = 2.37, MSE = 0.05, 
p = .13; delay, F < 1; or note condition, F < . Although
the two-way interactions were not significant, all
ps > ., the three-way interaction was marginally sig-
nicant, F(1, 95) = 3.38, MSE = 0.05, p = .07. This is 
probably due to meaningless variation because none
of these textbase scores were signicantly dierent
from chance, all ps > ., except for the no-notes
condition after a -week delay in the group that was
allowed to review their notes. Even here, performance 
was signicantly below chance. Thus, none of these
manipulations had a unique eect on memory at the
textbase level.
Finally, for the situation model level, there was
a main eect of delay, F(1, 95) = 39.10,MSE = 0.04, 
p < ., with performance worse after week
(M = .62) than when participants were tested imme-
diately (M = .75). Essentially, participants had more 
diculty retrieving a deeper understanding of the ma-
terial a week later. There was also a main eect of hav-
ing taken notes, F(1, 95) = 7.57, MSE = 0.04, p = .007, 
with performance being better when participants took
notes (M = .72) than when they did not (M = .66). 
The interaction between these two variables was not
signicant, F < . Although the main eect of review
was not signicant, it did interact with having taken
notes or not, F(1, 95) = 4.68, MSE = 0.04, p = .03. 
Essentially, as would be expected, for the topics on 
which participants had taken notes, being allowed to
review them later (M = .75) served as a retrieval cue,
which improved performance relative to those who
did not review the notes (M = .70).
In summary, interacting with a text by taking notes
improved performance for verbatim information and
led to deeper understanding at the situation model
level. There was no clear benet at the textbase level.
Note that chance performance on this measure does
not mean that participants had no textbase level rep-
resentation, but memory at this level did not contrib-
ute meaningfully to performance on the memory tests
over and above that found at the surface form and
situation model levels. In addition to the inuence of
note taking, the review of these notes appeared to aid
performance only at the situation model level. Finally,
the -week delay in testing aected performance only
at the situation model level. This may be because the
contributions of the surface form and textbase levels
66  •  bohay et al.
were so weak to begin with that they could not decline
much, even after a week of forgetting.
eXperiMent 2
Experiment 2 was an extension of Experiment 1. How-
ever, rather than reading texts, participants received the
information in a lecture format (the original texts were
written to be read as lectures anyway). Furthermore, in 
addition to written notes, there was a third condition
in which participants also took typed notes. This was
done because although most research has focused on
manual note taking, advances in technology have led to
more students taking notes on laptop computers. Ward
and Tatsukawa (2003) suggested that typing may be 
more eective for note taking because it allows search-
ing, editing, sharing, and greater legibility. In addition,
typing may be more ecient, less tiring, and faster than
written note taking, and the faster speed of typing al-
lows people to record more information.
For Experiment 2, 77  people  (53% female) were 
tested. Thirty-six were not allowed to review their
notes, and the other  were. All participants were
drawn from the participant pool in the Department
of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame in
exchange for partial course credit.
Materials and Procedure
The same materials were used as in Experiment 1, 
except that readings of the lectures were videotaped.
Each lecture was 9 min long. All three lectures were 
presented by the same male professor. There was no
additional information on the videotape (e.g., slides,
blackboard writing).
When participants arrived, they were given con-
sent forms and a survey for general demographic in-
formation. They were then given instructions for the
experiment proper. They were told that they would
view three -min videotaped lectures on the left half
of a computer screen, with the right half open to a
word processing program (for the computer notes
condition), and that for each lecture they would take 
either no notes, written notes, or typed notes on a
computer. The no-notes and written-notes condi-
tions were like those in Experiment 1. In the typed-
notes condition, participants took notes on the right
table 1. Accuracy levels by answer type, Experiment 1
Verbatim Paraphrase Inference Wrong
No review
No notes .70 .69 .70 .30
Written notes .81 .71 .69 .26
No notes .60 .61 .57 .41
Written notes .66 .58 .58 .39
Review of notes
No notes .71 .66 .63 .33
Written notes .80 .72 .74 .25
No notes .56 .49 .58 .45
Written notes .69 .58 .63 .37
table 2.
' measures (
) for the various levels of representa-
tion, Experiment 1
Surface form Textbase model
No review
No notes .51 (.03) .48 (.03) .76 (.03)*
Written notes .58 (.03)* .52 (.04) .77 (.03)*
No notes .49 (.03) .53 (.03) .61 (.03)*
Written notes .57 (.04)* .50 (.03) .62 (.04)*
No notes .54 (.03) .53 (.03) .69 (.03)*
Written notes .57 (.03)* .48 (.03) .79 (.03)*
No notes .55 (.03) .42 (.03)* .58 (.04)*
Written notes .58 (.04)* .48 (.03) .68 (.03)*
< .05.
note taking and MeMory • 67
half of the computer screen. All participants were in
each of the three note-taking conditions, and condi-
tion and lecture type were counterbalanced across
participants. Participants viewed the lectures indi-
vidually on a computer. After participants viewed all
the lectures, the experimenter collected the notes.
After the notes were collected, participants com-
pleted three -question multiple-choice tests corre-
sponding to the three topics. The tests were presented
in the same order in which the topics were viewed. As
in Experiment 1, the follow-up session 1 week later con-
sisted of a dierent set of multiple-choice tests, which
were also given in the order in which participants
viewed the topics. Participants were given an unlimited
amount of time to nish these tests. Again, although
all participants were told that they would be allowed
to review their notes, only some actually were.
Prior Knowledge
The prior knowledge data showed that the partici-
pants had little or no previous knowledge of lecture
material. Again, using a scale from  (no knowledge) 
to  (extensive knowledge), the means were Waiting
for Godot, M = 1.3; prion lecture, M = 1.2; and Russia 
lecture, M = 1.2.
The memory test accuracy data (Table 3) were used to 
calculate the A' measures (Table 4), which were sub-
mitted to separate 2 (review or not)×2 (delay)×
(note condition) mixed , with the rst variable
being between participants and the rest within. For
the surface form measure, there were no signicant
eects, although the main eect of review was margin-
ally signicant, F(1, 75) = 3.76, MSE = 0.05,p = .06. 
Surprisingly, performance was actually better overall
if people were not given the opportunity to review
their notes (M = .55) than if they were (M = .52). It is 
unclear why this was the case. Because of the oddness
of this nding, and the fact that we never replicated it
anywhere else, we assign little weight to it and suggest
that it might be a Type I error.
There was also a marginally signicant eect of
note condition, F(2, 150) = 2.37, MSE = 0.05, p = .10. 
Comparisons of the dierent note conditions re-
vealed marginally signicant dierences of the no-
notes condition (M = .51) with the written-notes 
(M = .56) and typed-notes (M = .55) conditions, F(,
75) = 3.58, MSE = 0.06, p = .06, and F(1, 75) = 3.05, 
MSE = 0.04, p = .09, respectively, whereas the last 
two conditions did not differ from one another,
F < . So although there was some benet to taking
notes at the surface form level when it came to an-
swers taken directly from the lecture, this is a weak
eect. The main eect of delay was not signicant,
F(1, 75) = 1.74,MSE = 0.05, p = .19, nor were any of 
the interactions, all ps > ..
For the textbase level, there were no signicant
main eects of review, F < 1; delay, F(1, 75) = 1.98, 
MSE = 0.06, p = .16; or note condition, F < . None
of the interactions were signicant, F < .
Finally, for the situation model level, there was
a main eect of delay, F(1, 75) = 13.79, MSE = 0.04,
p < ., with performance growing worse over  week
(M = .60) compared with immediate testing (M = .67). 
Again, people had more diculty retrieving an under-
standing of the content that they had learned a week
earlier. There was also a main eect of taking notes,
F(2, 150) = 6.65, MSE = 0.04, p = .002. Comparisons 
Table 3. Accuracy levels by answer type, Experiment 2
Verbatim Paraphrase Inference Wrong
No review
No notes .62 .60 .55 .41
Written notes .72 .67 .66 .32
Typed notes .75 .63 .64 .33
No notes .63 .51 .52 .45
Written notes .58 .48 .52 .47
Typed notes .63 .59 .61 .39
No notes .56 .64 .60 .40
Written notes .76 .70 .64 .30
Typed notes .67 .68 .65 .33
No notes .54 .57 .56 .44
Written notes .65 .55 .61 .40
Typed notes .67 .59 .58 .39
68  •  bohay et al.
of the dierent note conditions revealed signicant
dierences of the no-notes condition (M = .59) with 
the written-notes (M = .65) and typed-notes (M = .67) 
conditions, F(1, 75) = 6.60, MSE = 0.04, p = .01, and 
F(1, 75) = 12.17, MSE = 0.04,p = .001, respectively, 
whereas the last two conditions did not dier from
one another, F = 1. So, as in Experiment 1, there was 
a clear benet to taking notes at the situation model
level. Neither the main eect of review nor any of the
interactions were signicant, all ps > ..
  Overall the results of Experiment 2 show that note 
taking improved performance. Importantly, this ben-
et had the largest impact at the situation model level.
These results support previous work that suggests
that note taking can improve learning even without
later review (Annis, 1975; Ward & Tatsukawa, 2003). 
Moreover, there was no meaningful dierence between 
the written- and typed-notes conditions.
Analysis of Note Quantity
One concern that may arise is that people performed 
dierently based on how extensive their notes were.
To address this concern, we tallied the amount of
material contained in each participant’s notes and
compared it with test performance in Experiments 
 and . This was done by rst breaking the lectures
down into the propositional idea units and then
enumerating the number of idea units in each par-
ticipant’s notes (for a similar process, see Hartley & 
Cameron, 1967). These measures of note quantity 
were then compared across the various conditions
and with performance on the primary task.
The mean number of idea units present in the
written notes from Experiment 1 was M = 40.4. In 
Experiment 2, people in the written-notes group had 
a mean of M = 36.5 idea units, whereas those in the 
typed-notes group had a mean of M = 43.6 idea units.
The mean numbers of idea units in the notes are
reported in Table . The data for two participants
in Experiment 1 were excluded because their notes 
were lost.
To assess whether the extensiveness of the notes
was related to performance on the memory tests, the
data were submitted to a correlation analysis. The
relevant note quantity scores for the review and delay
conditions in Experiment 1 and for the review, delay, 
and note conditions for Experiment 2 were com-
pared with the surface form, textbase, and situation
table 4.
' measures for the various levels of representation,
Experiment 2
Surface form Textbase Situation model
No review
No notes .52 .55 .60*
Written notes .55 .50 .70*
Typed notes .60* .49 .70*
No notes .59* .49 .55
Written notes .56 .48 .54
Typed notes .53 .47 .65*
No notes .45 .53 .62*
Written notes .55 .53 .71*
Typed notes .49 .52 .70*
No notes .48 .51 .59*
Written notes .59* .46 .65*
Typed notes .57 .50 .63*
< .05.
model level memory scores on the tests correspond-
ing with each of these conditions. For Experiment 1, 
there was a signicant correlation in the no-review
condition with immediate situation model memory
performance, r(46) = .47, p = .001. No signicant cor-
relations were found when participants were allowed
to review their notes, all ps ≥ ..
When note quantity was compared with memory
test performance in Experiment 2, no signicant cor-
relations were found. However, note quantity was
Table 5. Mean note quantity (in mean numbers of
idea units recalled)
Experiment 1 Experiment 2
Written notes 40.4 36.5
Typed notes n/a 43.6
Mean 40.4 40.1
note taking and MeMory • 69
marginally correlated with immediate surface form
memory, but in the negative direction, r(41) = –.27, 
p = .086, and immediate situation model memory 
in the positive direction, r(41) = .28, p = .08,when 
participants reviewed their notes. The remainder of
the correlations did not approach signicance, all
ps ≥ .. Thus, the extensiveness of the notes showed
some relation to memory performance, but the cor-
relations were weak and inconsistent.
general disCussion
This study assessed how various levels of processing
are inuenced by a more active interaction with the
information, as with note taking. Moreover, we also 
looked at the impact of being able to review such
notes, the retention interval, and the use of both text
and video presentation on later performance.
First, this study conrmed that note taking does
aid performance (see Nye et al., 1984). In both ex-
periments, there was always evidence of some kind
of benet. This was clearly present at the situation
model level, although there was also some small bene-
t at the surface form level. Thus, it appears that note
taking facilitates deeper comprehension, consistent
with previous research that suggests that people who
take notes are more likely to elaborate on the material
(Einstein et al., 1985; Ward & Tatsukawa, 2003).
Second, not surprisingly, the notes themselves
can serve as eective memory cues. However, what
is surprising is that this inuence was not pervasive.
It clearly appeared only at the situation model level
in Experiment 1 when people read a text. With the 
spoken lectures in Experiment 2 it manifested itself 
only at the surface form level, and even then it was
marginal and showed the reverse pattern. Although
there may be some benet of reviewing notes, it did
not have a profound eect, at least in the context of
the current study.
Third, there was also an impact of delay on per-
formance, with people remembering less a week later
than when tested immediately. However, the inuence
of this delay was clearly observed only at the situation
model level. This may be due in part to the fact that
the inuence of the surface form and textbase levels on
performance was generally low, in many cases at chance
level, so a decline in performance after a -week delay
would be much more dicult to observe.
Finally, the manipulation of whether the informa-
tion was presented as a text or a lecture did reveal some
dierences on later performance, but these were minor.
Looking at the overall pattern of data, it is clear that
note taking had its primary inuence on the situation
model level, with a smaller inuence at the surface
form level. Thus, the patterns of data we observed
here would be attributed to general comprehension
processes, not to reading or listening per se.
Looking at the notes themselves, our analysis
suggests that more note taking provides a later per-
formance benefit. However, the evidence of such
benets was weak and inconsistent. Thus, at least
under the circumstances used here, it seems that to
improve test performance, it is of primary importance
that a person be actively attending to the material by
taking notes, but the amount of information noted is
of secondary importance.
  Overall, these results support the idea that when 
people are more actively engaged in material that
they are trying to learn, such as by taking notes,
their memory improves, particularly at deeper levels
of comprehension, as with the situation model level.
This is consistent with research showing that note
taking can improve performance (Annis, 1975; Dyer et 
al., 1979; Nye et al., 1984; Slotte & Lonka, 1999; Ward 
& Tatsukawa, 2003). It should also be noted that if 
students are given handouts with parts to be lled
out during comprehension lecture, this can improve
memory even further (Hartley, 1976; Larson, 2009; 
Sambrook & Rowley, 2010), perhaps by making the 
material better organized and focusing students’ at-
tention on the more important concepts. More gener-
ally, the results reported here are broadly consistent
with the idea that memory can be improved when
people are actively engaged with the material to be
learned, even if that engagement is simply the noting
down of the important ideas.
  More specically, there was no support for the 
idea that the act of note taking produces a dual task
situation that draws mental resources away from
memory and comprehension processes, thereby
focusing attention at the surface form and textbase
levels. Instead, the fact that the bulk of the memory
improvement we observed was at the situation model
level is consistent with previous research suggesting
that note taking may encourage people to elaborate
on and better structure and organize the material
70  •  bohay et al.
being learned (Einstein et al., 1985; Ward & Tat-
sukawa, 2003).This is because the act of situation 
model creation requires a person to draw inferences
about elements that are not explicitly created and to
bring together various elements of the information.
More generally, these ndings are broadly consistent 
with a wide range of ndings that active interaction
improves memory, as with research on grounded cog-
nition (Barsalou, 1999, 2007; Glenberg, 1997; Wilson,
2002), the benets of survival focus encoding (Nairne 
& Pandeirada, 2008; Nairne et al., 2007, 2008), and 
event-based mental updating (Copeland et al., 2006; 
Radvansky & Copeland, 2006).
  One concern about the current research is that all 
participants were repeatedly tested. Recent work has
shown that prior testing can improve performance on
later memory tests. This is called the testing eect
(Chan, McDermott, & Roediger, 2006). The testing 
eect is well established, and it is present for all the
conditions assessed here, and so it is a constant. If our
data reect some impact of repeated testing (thereby
reducing the forgetting rate to some degree), there is 
no clear evidence to date that the testing eect dif-
ferentially inuences the various levels of representa-
tion. Moreover, the testing eect has been found to 
be only marginally signicant (p = .09) when, instead 
of a recall test, a forced-choice recognition is used
on the initial test (McDaniel, Anderson, Derbish, & 
Morisette, 2007), as was used here. Therefore, there 
is no reason to believe that the testing eect is driving
the primary results reported here.
In conclusion, this study showed that perfor-
mance improved when people more actively engage
with the information, such as by taking notes. This
improvement was observed primarily at the situa-
tion model level, where deeper understanding oc-
curs. This increased engagement facilitated more
elaborative mental processing of the material, result-
ing in superior situation models that allowed people
to more accurately respond to subsequent memory
test questions.
Thanks to Dr. T. Merluzzi for graciously agreeing to be the 
lecturer and to Allie Payne for lming and editing the lec-
tures; and to Erica Nason, Alison Dunleavy, Brad Bitterly, 
Josephine Kim, Katie Harris, Amanda Caravalho, Ammar
Tahir, and Jessica Harrison for help with the data collection.
Address correspondence about this article to G. A. Rad-
vansky, -C Haggar, Department of Psychology, University
of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN  (e-mail: gradvans@
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appendiX. saMple teXt and test iteMs For
the waiting For godot leCture
Though dicult and sometimes baing to read or (even) view, Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett’s rst play,
was written originally in French in  as En Attendant Godot. It premiered at a tiny theater in Paris in .
The play’s uniqueness compelled the audiences to ock to the theaters for a spectacularly continuous four hun-
dred performances. Waiting for Godot is one of the most important works of our time; revolutionizing theater in 
the twentieth century and having a profound inuence on generations of succeeding dramatists, including such
renowned contemporary playwrights as Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard. After the appearance of Waiting for
Godot, theater was opened to possibilities that playwrights and audiences had never before imagined. Waiting
for Godot was a unique outburst on the literary world. It made no claim to have a place in conventional drama; 
rather, it carried a “fascination” of its own, authenticated by the undercurrent of resentment in accepting the
illogical and unreasonable norms of the society. This play came to be considered an essential example of what
Martin Esslin later called “Theater of the Absurd,” a term that Beckett disavowed but which remains a handy 
description for one of the most important theater movements of the twentieth century. “Absurdist Theater”
discards traditional plot, characters, and action to assault its audience with a disorienting experience. Characters
often engage in seemingly meaningless dialogue or activities, and, as a result, the audience senses what it is like
to live in a universe that doesn’t “make sense.” Beckett and others who adopted this style felt that this disorient-
ed feeling was a more honest response to the post World War II world than the traditional belief in a rationally
ordered universe. Waiting for Godot remains the most famous example of this form of drama. The play opens on
a totally surreal note, with a tramp trying to pull o his boot on a lonely road under a leaess tree. There is no
horizon, no sign of civilization. For a moment, this scene might even be considered comic. Eventually Vladimir 
enters and greets Estragon who informs Vladimir that he has spent the night in a ditch where he was beaten.
They are very happy to see each other, having been separated for an unspecied amount of time. Estragon has a 
sore foot and is having trouble taking his boot o. . . .
Verbatim test item
This type of theater that discards traditional plot, characters, and action to assault its audience with disorienting
experience is called:
a. Ridiculous
  b. Absurdist (correct)
c. Bizarre
d. Strange
Paraphrase test item
_______ spends the night in a ditch where he was beaten.
a. Vladimir
  b. Estragon (correct)
c. Pozzo
d. Lucky
Inference test item
Audiences really responded to the play because it ________.
a. Was a unique outburst on the literary world
b. Didn’t accept illogical and unreasonable norms
c. It was not a conventional drama
  d. All of the above (correct)
note taking and MeMory • 73
... Rather than simple rote memorization, the emphasis shifted to how students were portraying these notes and the methods that they used to copy them down. In a recent study, researchers found that notetaking improved learning and increased understanding through active engagement in note-taking with the content (Bohay et al., 2011). ...
This case study addressed how visual note-taking (sketchnotes) impacted students' learning in an English Language Arts (ELA) classroom. The purpose of this qualitative study was to analyze if sketchnoting was a useful tool that students could use to deepen their understanding of concepts learned in ELA. Data from student examination of their own sketchnotes, teacher/researcher examination of the sketchnotes, and interviews were analyzed by identifying quality of work, themes, and assessment questions. The interview questions focused on student experiences with sketchnotes, test score outcomes, and student emotions towards sketchnotes. The examination was a document analysis of sketchnotes parallel to student assessment questions. This was to analyze visual items either presented or not presented on the sketchnote to what the assessment question was asking. Case study research is an analysis of a single or collective case, intended to capture the complexity of the object of study. The object of this study was sketchnoting and how sketchnoting helped or impacted student learning. Through this research, I presented my key elements of this study. The results of this study could help educators understand the benefits of sketchnoting in their classroom. It may also improve student learning and education.
... It should be noted, however, that in the delayed posttest, the learning gains between participants who wrote and did not write target words in notes were not significant. Bohay et al. (2011) found that participants had more difficulty recalling knowledge of the material one week after the treatment. Therefore, if participants have no chance to further encounter words (e.g., review notes), their memory will decay. ...
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There has been little research investigating the effects of notetaking on foreign language (FL) learning, and no studies have examined how it affects vocabulary learning. The present study investigated the vocabulary written in notes of 86 students after they had listened to a teacher in an English as a foreign language (EFL) class. The results showed that 51.2% of participants took notes, and 32.6% wrote information about target words in notes. However, there were only 95 instances of information written about the 28 target words. The results revealed that the odds of vocabulary learning were 15 and 10 times higher in the immediate and delayed posttests for target words that were written in notes. The analysis also indicated that the use of first language (L1) translation in teacher speech increased the chances that target words were written in notes, and that writing words in notes was the most effective predictor of learning.
Memory for text is represented at 3 levels: the surface form, textbase, and situation model. Although prior research has shown that these levels of representation can be differentially emphasized at the time of encoding, the influence of retrieval instructions on the use of these levels has not been tested. Moreover, there has been no assessment of how this influence might change over time. We assessed memory under both verbatim- and consistency-based instructions. For the verbatim instructions, people indicated whether probe sentences were actually read in the text. For consistency instructions, people responded based on whether probe sentences were consistent with what had been read earlier. A transitory influence view suggests that instructions at retrieval would guide the information used immediately, but not after a delay, when some levels of representation have faded. In contrast, a stable influence view suggests that retrieval instructions would guide the information used both immediately and after a delay. The results revealed that the verbatim instructions emphasized surface form and textbase measures, but consistency instructions emphasized situation model measures. This pattern shifted somewhat over a 1-week delay, with surface form memory becoming equivalent but the differences at the other 2 levels remaining.
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هدف البحث إلى التعرّف على (أثر استراتيجية تدوين الملاحظات في تحصيل طالبات الرابع الادبي في الادب والنصوص). تكونت عينة البحث من (62) طالبة من طالبات الصف الرابع الادبي في مدرسة ثانوية للبنات في مدينة الرمادي / مركز محافظة الأنبار للعام الدراسي (2019 - 2020)، وزعن بالتساوي إلى مجموعتين: تجريبية وضابطة بواقع (31) طالبة في كل مجموعة، بعد ان كافأت الباحثة بينهما إحصائياً في مُتغيرات (العُمر الزمني، واختبار الذكاء، واختبار القدرة اللغوية، واختبار معلومات سابقة)، وقد أعدّت اختباراً للتحصيل من (40) فقرة موضوعية من نوع "اختيار من متعدد ذي الأربعة بدائل"، وقد تحققت من صدقه وثباته، وبعد انتهاء التجربة وتطبيق الاختبار على طالبات مجموعتي البحث أظهرت النتائج: يوجد فرق ذو دلالة إحصائية بين متوسط درجات طالبات المجموعة التجريبية اللواتي درسن باستراتيجية تدوين الملاحظات ومتوسط درجات طالبات المجموعة الضابطة اللواتي درسن بالطريقة الاعتيادية في اختبار التحصيل لصالح طالبات المجموعة التجريبية.
Although reading homework is common in university courses, compliance rates vary. Using interviews, this study explored how five students responded to reading assignments in their introductory college mathematics classes and how they viewed reading and reading-related activities relative to their academic successes. Qualitative content analysis of the interview data and resultant case studies revealed that the participants completed their readings and undertook associated activities to produce gains in confidence, preparedness, mastery, achievement, and self-responsibility. This research offers an in-depth view of students’ reading and reading-related practices, highlights the importance they attributed to these behaviors, reveals how their mathematics comfort levels influenced their approaches to reading assignments, exposes complicating factors that impacted their academic achievements, and points to the value of using pedagogic interventions to encourage reading in math courses.
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This study assessed the effectiveness of the Academic Diary in the teaching of Oral Communication in Context. This study is a mixed-method in which the students’ pre-post test scores are the quantitative figures, while the students’ experiences in their use of Academic Diary form part of the qualitative data. The pre-post test scores of the students were used to identify if the application of the Academic Diary in the teaching of Oral Communication in Context could possibly elevate the students’ learning and comprehension. Moreover, structured questions were used during the guided interview to get the students’ experiences with regard to the usability, suitability, and efficiency of the Academic Diary. Statistically, the results revealed that there is a significant difference between the pre-post test scores of the students. Based on the extracts during the guided-interview, the findings conveyed that Academic Diary is usable because it enhances learning, is suitable because it stores learned information, and is efficient because it provides learners with learning guidance. This implies that Academic Diary in the teaching of Oral Communication in Context is effective in enhancing students’ learning and comprehension of the most essential learning competencies. Therefore, it is highly suggested that educators may use the Academic Diary to keep track of the students’ actual learning status for a tailored-fit intervention.
Introduction: Many pharmacy students struggle academically in their initial professional year. This research ascertained first-year pharmacy (P1) students' study skills and learning habits both before and after employing interventions about effective study strategies. Methods: In 2018–2019 and 2019–2020, P1 students completed a study skills inventory at baseline in August and at endpoint in April. Interventions included instruction about the science of learning and effective study techniques as well as the use of a cognitive wrapper regarding their first assessment. Results: Students' perceived habits that improved were those of organizing their ideas, studying at their peak time, and really wanting to learn the content. Perceived habits that declined included time spent doing their assigned readings, seeing the need to always attend class, and reviewing course material each day. Regarding the cognitive wrapper, 90% of students thought they were prepared for their assessment, yet 21% received a lower grade than expected and 10% did not work on practice problems at least 2 days before the quiz. Conclusions: This endeavor elucidated several important areas about the study skills and learning habits of P1 students. Some students' perceptions of their study skills and learning habits strengthened and others decreased during their first year. The cognitive wrapper provided a targeted way for students to reflect on their preparation and performance as well as consider their future study plans. Faculty can use this information to help students employ effective learning practices to promote students' metacognition throughout the first year of their program.
Personal technology devices are now a primary method of note-taking in graduate learning. This study compared student learning outcomes using laptops for digital note-taking compared with handwritten notes. Various results were reported in the literature of which note-taking method in undergraduate and graduate levels of learning results in best learning outcomes. Subjects were 117 first-year doctoral physical therapy students enrolled in a 3-week wound care course. The study was completed over 3 consecutive years. Subjects volunteered to either use their laptop for digital note-taking or take handwritten notes on slide handouts. After course completion, course grades were compared between the 2 different note-taking method groups. A 1-way analysis of variance yielded no significant difference due to the method of note-taking on overall course grade F(1, 115) = .048 (P = .827). A 2-way analysis of variance yielded no significant interaction between the method of note-taking and gender, but the main effect of gender was significant, with female subjects scoring higher than male subjects. Another 2-way analysis of variance yielded a significant interaction between the method of note-taking and the age of the student F(1, 113) = 9.402 (P = .003), and a simple main effects analysis for age found a significant difference in course grade between the 2 note-taking methods for older students F(1, 113) = 8.923 (P = .003) but not for younger students. This indicates that the effect of note-taking method on the course grade depended on the age group, specifically the older group tended to perform better with handwritten notes. With our findings focusing on graduate physical therapy students, we found that handwritten note-takers tended toward having higher course grades, but they did not significantly outperform the digital note-taking group. Our findings found that the age of student and handwritten note-taking resulted in significantly higher course grades. Female gender was also found to be a significant factor for improved classroom performance in this study. Results from this study indicated that modality of note-taking may not matter for most students, but it may matter for older students. Older students performed better in the handwritten notes group, and these findings are important to share with course instructors and with older students who may be struggling in graduate coursework.
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We present findings from a study exploring student and staff perceptions of the use of webnotes, and whether their availability affects attendance at lectures. A questionnaire survey gathered data from 162 undergraduate and masters students and 20 staff. Students and staff agree that webnotes have become an expected supplement to lecture delivery, and cite a range of advantages of such notes. There are mixed views on the impact of webnotes on attendance; all agree that it is important that the lecture is seen to ‘add value’ over webnotes. Some see gapped notes as encouraging interaction and engagement, whilst others feel that they interrupt concentration and learning. Staff offered insights into how lecturers can enhance the effectiveness of students’ use of webnotes. Suggestions are offered as to how both students and academic staff might improve their practice in this context.
College students read a 2,000-word text with or without taking notes. Afterwards, one-half of the learners wrote passage summaries without referring to the text, while the remainder completed a spatial relations task. Subjects then either reread the original passage or engaged in placebo work. All subjects subsequently took both a 30- item immediate test and a seven-day delayed test composed of equal numbers of factual and idea questions. Both notetaking and rereading strategies improved recall; however, these effects were nonadditive. Participants recalled more substantive information, but rereading increased factual recall. The time and conditional probability analyses supported these findings. The authors concluded that the presence of the original text was essential to further learning.
This paper aims (1) to determine why students take notes, (2) to survey the research findings available in the current literature, (3) to identify inadequacies and omissions in this literature in order to suggest more profitable lines of research for future study, and (4) to suggest guide‐lines for both teachers and students which will exploit more effectively the potential of note‐taking.
In this paper five experiments are described which examine relationships between the design of lecture handouts and students’ note‐taking practices. The experiments look at the effects on note‐taking of (i) the presence of a handout; (ii) deleting items in order to provide more space on a handout; (iii) increasing the amount of space between items on a handout; and (iv) omitting words and phrases on the handout which have to be completed by the student during the lecture. The results in each experiment indicate that note‐taking practices vary as a function of the design of lecture handouts.
It has recently been proposed that in addition to verbatim and propositional text representations, a reader also forms a cognitive representation of the situations addressed by the text. This theoretical position was supported in three experiments which examined encoding processes, the cognitive products, and retrieval processes of the verbatim, propositional, and situational processing components: The degree of propositional and situational processing was successfully manipulated by varying the subjects' study goals. As a consequence of these differential encoding processes, subjects who studied for text summarization remembered more propositional information while subjects with a knowledge acquisition goal remembered more situational information. It was found that the situational encoding and retrieval processes proceeded faster than the respective propositional processes. In a sentence recognition task, subjects more strongly relied upon situational than propositional information, demonstrating the importance of situational representations in text comprehension.
This review investigates the relative effectiveness of externally provided lecture notes, personally recorded notes, and a combination of the two. Findings indicate that students' own notes are generally incomplete and, therefore, inadequate for reviewing the lecture. Consequently, students who review a detailed set of lecture notes from the instructor generally achieve more on exams than do learners who review their own notes, while learners who review both sets of notes perform best of all. Teachers can also facilitate student learning by providing partial outlines (or skeletal notes) for notetaking prior to the lecture. The additive effects of receiving both partial notes before the lecture and full notes afterwards are unknown but logically beneficial. The paper concludes with instructional implications for increasing the review function of both externally provided and personally recorded notes.