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Crystal Gay
Quantitative Article Critique
Georgia Southern University

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Bui, D. C., Myerson, J., & Hale, S. (2013). Note-taking with computers: Exploring alternative
strategies for improved recall. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 105(2), 299-309.
doi:10.1037/a0030367
Bui, Myerson, and Hale (2013) conducted three experiments exploring the relationship of
note-taking and recall. Each experiment was a 2 x 2 between-subjects design and included
organized note taking versus transcription, computer versus hand writing, immediate testing
versus delayed testing, and study versus no study. This was a quantitative study that had the
following three goals:

Compare test performance of students how take notes by hand to those who use a

computer
Compare effects of organized note taking to those who transcribe a lecture
Examine how working memory is involved in the two strategies including looking
at individual working memory differences

Methods for all three experiments were similar. All participants completed tasks to measure
working memory, would take notes while listening to a recorded lecture, and were tested on the
material. Each experiment had a 2 x 2 design. Correlational analysis was performed for all three
experiments. The authors found that for participants that took organized notes, working memory
predicted quantity of notes, which in turn predicted recall. For participants who transcribed the
lecture, only note quantity was a predictor of recall. They also state that those with poor working
memory can take effective notes if they use a note-taking strategy.
Participants completed a reading span task, a lexical decision task, and would listen to an
11-minute lecture that contained a passage from a nonfiction book. The authors utilized a scoring
system created by previous researchers who used this passage. The system selected the main
points of the passage and coded them as main points, important details, and unimportant details.

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Two types of tests were also used, free recall and short answer. Blind raters were used to score
the free recall test and notes. Independent variable were the conditions that participants were
placed while the dependent variables were performance on the text even at the end.
Participants in the three experiments were undergraduate students, proficient English
speakers, and received course credit for participation. Experiment 1 had 80 students (53 females
and 27 males). Experiment 2 had 76 students (37 females and 39 males). Experiment 3 had 72
students (47 females and 25 males).
Participants in Experiment 1 were put into one of the following conditions: organized
note taking by hand, organized note taking by computer, transcription by hand, or transcription
by computer. The authors found that notes taken by computer had more of the idea units, as did
the transcribed notes. Those who took computer notes also had higher recall, as did those who
transcribed. Computer note taking led to better text performance and transcribed notes also led to
better performance. The authors also note that those who hand wrote notes did not write more if
they were in the transcribing group. This is attributed to the physical limitation of handwriting.
Those who used a computer to transcribe notes had the best performance in testing.
Participants in Experiment 2 were put into the following groups: organized note taking
with test delay, organized note taking with immediate testing, transcription with delayed testing,
and transcription with immediate testing. Those in the delayed testing were tested 24 hours after
the note-taking portion of the experiment. All participants used a computer and were randomly
assigned to the delay groups. Those who transcribed notes took a greater quantity of notes.
Recall was higher for those tested immediately than those who had delayed testing. Those who
took organized note taking showed superior performance on the delayed test than the
transcription group. As was the case in Experiment 1, those in the transcription group with a

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computer had better performance in the immediate testing. The authors state while trying to
transcribe a lecture using a computer may be an immediately effective way to talk notes, the
benefits of such a strategy can be very short-lived (p. 304).
Participants in Experiment 3 were place in the following groups: organized note taking
with study condition, organized note taking with no study condition, transcription with study
condition, or transcription with no study condition. After the note-taking portion of the
experiment half of the participants were told to study their notes for 5 minutes. All participants
took the test 24 hours later. Participants allowed to study showed superior delayed recall in the
transcription group. Those with no study time did better when they had taken organized notes.
The authors went on to hypothesize that students with poor working memory should be
able to utilize transcription as effectively as those with better working memory. To test this, they
used data from all three experiments from the following four groups all who used a computer:
organized notes/immediate testing, transcribed notes/immediate testing, organized notes/delayed
testing, and transcribed notes/delayed testing. They also pulled data from experiment 3 where
participants were allowed to study the material prior to the delayed testing. They found state that
our findings suggest not only that transcribing using a computer can lead to superior immediate
recall, but also that working memory does not play a role in the process (p. 306). In the delayed
condition it was found the there was less forgetting with those who had a higher working
memory. In the study condition with delayed testing those who transcribed the notes performed
better.
The overall conclusion in the article is that note quality (organized) versus quantity
(transcription) both are important depending on the situation. Quantity is important with studying
was allowed prior to a delayed test. When studying was not allowed quality was more important.

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The authors did a good job addressing concerns they had with the study. This included
that participants may not have followed instructions in regards to what type of notes to take.
They examined the notes provided to look for markers to indicate if the assigned method was
followed and determined that they were. They also discussed how transcribing using a computer
would not be beneficial to those who cannot type well. They also discuss how reasonable it
would be to ask students to transcribe lectures. They end the article stating, research is needed
on how individual differences interact with note-taking strategies so that students can be guided
toward strategies that rely on cognitive abilities that they are stronger in, or toward strategies that
depend less on the abilities they are weaker in. For students who have poor working memory, at
least, help may be on its way (p. 308).
The researchers identified an issue that could be helpful to those in education, which is
strength. Other strengths include the authors detailed and easy to follow description of the
methods used. The information was also given in a neutral tone and the literature review added to
the information needed to understand what they authors wished to study. They also took the
previous research and decided to further it in a way that had not been previously researched. The
research used in the literature review help build the understanding of what the authors were
interested in regarding note-taking and working memory.
I believe the structure of the delayed testing and study/no study condition is a weakness if
the authors wish to use their findings in real world scenarios. In the current higher education
climate there is usually more than a 24-hour delay in testing. Also, students usually review
material right before testing, not right after taking the notes and then not looking at them again. I
do recognize that trying to design and carry out a study that would be reminiscent of the
normal college experience would be very daunting and may not be possible. Another weakness

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is that it is not mentioned if the females and males were split evenly between the two groups in
each experiment. Considering the amount of research regarding the difference in recall between
the genders this information would be helpful to see if gender difference could have affected the
data in any way.
I am left feeling like the authors have a good start to something but were unable to find a
solution. The authors only hypothesis was stated after all the experiments were completed and
they pooled data from those experiments to look at it. That hypothesis was discussed very briefly,
only stating that to find an effective note-taking strategy for those with lower working memory
ability, these results may appear problematic. However, they come from participants who were
not allowed to study their notes (p. 306). The author continues to discuss the effect of studying
note and test performance but they had a very small sample and were unable to draw a
conclusion. The authors do state that further research is needed regarding individual differences
and note-taking strategies in order to help guide students into using strategies suited for their
abilities.
I feel the research is useful but it needs to be expanded for it can be applied.
Improvements would have been to be mindful of gender differences and working memory and to
speak in a little more detail toward the hypothesis. The methods were explained very well and
the discussion following each experiment were excellent, but the general discussion section for
the entire paper seemed lacking. In this section the authors did well in discussing possible future
studies including the grasp of information on a conceptual level (p. 308). I also wonder if this
research would include a survey of participants regarding stress levels during the note taking
exercise. Transcribing can be very difficult and if the authors feel that it would be beneficial to

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those with poor working memory it would be advantageous to if this method of note taking add
additional stress to the students.
Overall, the article was well written and very descriptive. It was easy to follow the
methods used and each experiment was explained well and had result section that helped to sum
up each experiment. There are some unanswered questions, but it would be interesting to see
more research into this topic.
Good job, Nikki. You have highlighted most of the main points necessary for your reader to
understand and evaluate the article but even though it wasnt explicitly stated in the article, I
would like to have seen you attempt to list the research question, discuss the variables and any
ethical considerations taken. 13.5/15 points.