Aesthetically pleasing notes boost academic motivation


Ji-Sung Lee

[dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]A[/dropcap]s sophomore Maddie Murphy reviews her notes for upcoming tests, she sees neat headers and perfectly lined up calligraphy letters. Fancy swirls and doodles frame her pages, and to bystanders, her notes may as well have come right out of a Tumblr study blog. But to Murphy, taking time to create aesthetically pleasing notes is a way for her to be more motivated to study and retain the information she needs to know.
“It encourages me to spend more time looking at my notes because if they were just written sloppily in pencil, I would probably never return to them after class,” Murphy said. “But since they’re in calligraphy and colorful, I think it’s helped me to get higher test scores as well as [understand] the content better.”
Similar to Murphy, senior Ellen Terry takes her time in classes such as Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology, AP Biology and Anatomy, where notes make up a majority of the classes.  According to ThoughtCo. a permanent written record, such as notes “can prove indispensable when it’s time to write an essay or take a test on the materials discussed in class.”
“I always take the time to write good notes because it’s part of our grade to do them,” Terry said. “If I take the time to write good notes, it’s easier for me to go back and study them later when I need to for tests.”
For students such as Terry who take the effort to make their notes arranged and orderly, there are also blog owners such as Jessica Slaughter who specialize in studyblrs.  According to Slaughter’s blog, studyblrs are a new phenomenon and part of a community on Tumblr where users post about all things related to studying.  This includes notes, desk spaces, study techniques and highlighter suggestions. Slaughter believes this specific method of studyblrs, which includes neatly organized planners and notes, has lists of benefits on its own.
[quote]“Studyblrs are a genre of Tumblr blogs dedicated to inspirational study methods,” Assistant Professor of Media Arts at the University of North Texas Dr. Jacqueline Ryan Vickery said.  “I think they can help students find creative ways to stay organized, different methods for studying (such as timing techniques, organization, note-taking etc.), but also a sense of accountability and community.”[/quote] For Terry, this studyblr method is a way for her to learn the material in a more enjoyable way rather than forcing herself to memorize key terms and ideas.
“If you’re taking the time to write out neat notes, you’re spending more time reading and understanding the material,” Terry said. “[This is] opposed to just scribbling them down quickly and not really taking the time to understand what you’re writing.”
While taking aesthetic notes may help Terry in her studies, Murphy has a different approach. It’s not every day that Murphy takes thought into her fonts and letters. Sometimes Murphy has to prioritize her education and what she’s learning rather than borders around her pages.  
“I don’t always take the time to make my notes look good because during lectures the teachers may be talking too quickly for me to have the time to keep everything cute,” Murphy said. “It’s a stressed out ‘tick’ I have, I’d say. When the content being thrown at me seems overwhelming or I’m studying for a test, I hand-letter the headings and my name on the Cornell notes sheet. It also makes learning the content a lot more interesting for me, especially when I’m reviewing my notes.”
Terry also believes she can’t always concentrate on color combinations and cursive fonts. Although she can create a piece of art whenever her pen hits the paper, Terry finds that sometimes the pace of teaching holds her back from drawing banners and headlines since getting down the material is just as important.
“I usually don’t take nice notes in class since there’s no time during a lecture; I take them from the textbook outside of class,” Terry said. “But I do feel if I take notes outside of class, I understand the content more so I can engage and understand more in the class.”
Like Terry and Murphy, Dr. Vickery also believes studyblrs sometimes aren’t the best option, especially when students are behind or can’t keep up.  But when it acts as a sense of motivation, students should always take the effort to make their notes bring out their creative side.
“If other people are leaving you encouraging notes, it makes you feel less alone and hopefully more encouraged and motivated. Learning how to study is an important skill that we don’t always do a good job teaching students, so I see studyblrs as a peer-driven community that tries to help each other learn how to study and stay motivated,” Dr. Vickery said.  “Again, they aren’t for everyone – the aesthetics and organization may actually stress some people out or be used as a way to procrastinate actually studying – but they can also be beneficial for students who enjoy the community and artistic way of taking notes.”
Do you use studyblrs? Let us know in the comments below.