Chapter 2: Getting Started in Research

Here is the abstract of a 2014 article in the journal Psychological Science.

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. (Mueler & Oppenheimer, 2014, p. 1159)[1]

In this abstract, the researcher has identified a research question—about the effect of taking notes on a laptop on learning—and identified why it is worthy of investigation—because the practice is ubiquitous and may be harmful for learning. In terms of the general model of scientific research in psychology presented in Figure 1.1, these are activities at the “top” of the cycle. In this chapter, we focus on these activities—finding research ideas, turning them into interesting empirical research questions, and reviewing the research literature. We begin, however, with some more basic concepts that are necessary to understand how research questions in psychology are conceptualized.

  1. Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1159-1168.