University of Waterloo study shows slower typing leads to better writing

Just because you can type 100 words per minute, doesn't mean you're putting out quality prose according to new University of Waterloo research.
When people type quickly, they tend to use the first words that come to mind. When that writing is slowed down, the result is deeper writing and a more diverse vocabulary, explains University of Waterloo PhD candidate Srdan Medimorec. (Eric Anderson)

Just because you can type 100 words per minute, doesn't mean you're putting out quality prose, according to a new study conducted by the University of Waterloo, and published in this month's British Journal of Psychology. 

The research was carried out by PhD candidate Srdan Medimorec. He tested the theory with 300 undergraduate students using three different experiments.

Each time, they were given 50 minutes to complete a writing assignment. Sometimes participants were asked to write essays using both hands; others, just one hand. 

He found essays written with one hand contained more complex thoughts and wider vocabulary.

"In a way it's like typing at the speed of thought. So if we type fast, we're going to type the first thing that pops up into our mind, shallower words. But if we have more time we can allow for more deeper processing, and more time is going to result in less frequent words, or more diverse vocabulary," explained Medimorec.

More time equals deeper work

Previous research by Princeton University in 2014 showed that students who typed their notes didn't retain information as well as students who wrote them down by hand. 

"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," wrote authors Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer.

Medimorec believes his research complements that study.

"We think something similar is happening here," he said. "It makes perfect sense — just having more time, you will produce something that is deeper."


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