Structured vs. Unstructured Doodling

It is interesting to note that there needs to be a distinction between structured doodling, such as what I encourage students to do in the Doodle It Novels, and passive unstructured doodling.

In their study, Boggs, Cohen, and Marchand (2017) suggest, based on their data, that “there may not be an advantage for doodling as a tool for increasing recall performance” (p. 210). This conclusion was based on important aspects of their findings. (1) they were unable to replicate Andrade’s (2010) findings and (2) “significant results…showed there was a drop in recall performance for those who were in the unstructured doodling condition” (p. 210).

However, they also found that “structured doodling had a statistically similar effect on recall ability compared to a thoroughly document encoding aid such as note-taking” (p. 211). Note-taking is an art that has disappeared from our education system. It should be noted, however, the original intent of note-taking was to implant knowledge by developing neuron-pathways connected from hand to brain.

I am told students are mostly "hands-on, active learners." Whatever that means, because learning is always active and part of the learning process in developing brain and memory. Doodling incorporates both aspects of making the theoretical: practical and personal, and that is what causes people to learn. Whether you are a visual learner, or an auditory learner, or a kinesthetic learner, doodling is beneficial for creating pathways in the brain.

In the Afflatus Reborn, Truth Seer, and The Revenge Curse Doodle It Novels, I have attempted to structure the doodling by providing space for teens to doodle their own ideas about the story. This is structured doodling and this is what causes the engagement with the story.

As a teacher, I found that students engage more with reading when they can apply their own lens and interpretation to what they are reading. Doodling presents them with such an opportunity. But it is clear that structured doodling can aid in memory recall.


Andrade, K. (2010). What does doodling do. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24(1), 100-106.

Boggs, J., Cohen, J., & Marchand, G. (2017). The effects of doodling on recall ability. Psychological Thought, 10(1), 206-216.

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