Last summer an adjunct professor was brought in to teach Research Methods to my cohort of Counseling graduate students. On the first day she asked everyone to pull out their laptops and navigate to a particular website and was shocked when she was met, largely, with shrugs and apologies.

Why was this instructor’s very typical request so poorly received in my classroom?

Laptops in class are rare at my school (they are actually banned in some classes!) and most students take notes in class longhand, because several core faculty members clued us in to research that’s particularly of interest to students:

Two psychologists, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. Contrary to earlier studies attributing the difference to the distracting effects of computers, the new research suggests that writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.
New York Times: “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades” By Maria Konnikova

That last line is a game-changer, to me: “writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.” Something about the process of writing filters information through our brains in such a way that it is encoded differently (better) than typing. Combined with research showing that doodling improves memory retention, it’s likely that doodle-note takers likely retain more information than those who longhand note take OR who doodle.

For this reason I think it can be helpful to recopy notes changing the visual layout. As a doodle-note taker, this gives me the opportunity to both review the material and enjoy the process of doodle note taking in an environment where I’m not doodling my way through distractions and challenges to keep up with the speaker. At my own pace, I can recopy and simultaneously reprocess to solidify learning and enjoy the art of doodling.

Here’s one example from a Child & Adolescent Counseling Course in 2016:

FIRST DRAFT (in class):

First Draft of Notes - Taken During Class


RECOPIED VERSION (after class):

I think it’s easier to arrange the information on the page once I’ve run through the data once. I’m curious if my learning matches that same trajectory- if it might be easier to integrate bits of data once I’ve gotten a look at a larger picture. I’m not sure, but the second draft never looks anything like the first, but always looks more organized- which might be a very telling detail!

closeup of doodle notes
closeup of doodle notes
Second copy of doodle notes, recopying helps commit information to memory & always produces a cleaner, less distracted page of notes.


Y13, N0, N1, N2 Copic Sketch Markers

Another set of Recopied Notes:

FIRST DRAFT (in class):


RECOPIED VERSION (after class):



boost scores by doodling in class

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2 thoughts on “Learn More in the Classroom with Doodle Notes”

  1. Hi Lindsay, I love your tips for surviving grad school! Thank you for sharing them! I’m wondering two things after reading this post: How long does it take you to recopy your notes & how soon after class do you revisit them to make a final draft of your notes? Also, in these pictures, what size paper were you using and do your notes always easily fit on one page for a 2 hour class? I tend to take an overwhelming amount of notes! 🙂

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