SQ3R Method

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SQ3R method - ToolsHero

This article explains the SQ3R Method in a practical way. After reading it, you will understand the basics of this active reading method to read and learn more effectively. It’s a great reading method.

What is the SQ3R Method?

The SQ3R Method is a way to study, understand and remember written information more quickly. The reading method was first mentioned in 1946, in the book Effective Study by education psychologist Francis P. Robinson, that has been reprinted many times since then.

The goal of this reading method is to help students to efficiently and actively work on reading and understanding (educational) texts. But it can be useful for everyone who, in their work, studies or free time rely on written information and want to understand it better.

SQ3R Method stands for the following five steps: Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review.

How do you apply it?

Many people have a tendency to first read a new text completely and highlight important passages. This method is a step-by-step plan to approach a text more effectively. You follow these five steps: S(urvey), Q(uestion), R(ead), R(ecite) and R(eview).

1. Survey

First, you take a few minutes to scan the entire text. Pay attention to layout, chapters, sections, graphs, pictures, words in bold and italics. In general, these provide important information about the contents of the text.

By quickly scanning through the text first, you create an overview and structure. This serves as the foundation for the active reading and understanding of the text.

2. Question

Ask yourself questions about the text that you scanned during the previous step. You can for instance turn the chapter titles into questions. Write down the questions.

Ask yourself what you already know about the topic and what your goal is for reading the text.

Try to understand what it is that the author wants to convey.

You can use the left margin to write down your questions about the text in a structured way. At a later stage, you can note down the answers in the right margin.

3. Read

Read the text while keeping the structure from step 1, “S” and the questions from step 2, “Q” in the back of your mind. Pay attention to chapters, sentences printed in bold, explanations under graphs and images.

Read ‘actively’, write down (additional) questions while you are reading and try to find answers to previously asked questions. Write down answers and explanations in the right margin of the text.

Take your time for the more complicated parts of the text and read it again if you need to.

Give less attention to unimportant information. Reread per part and repeat these parts to yourself in your own words.

4. Recite

Repeat (aloud) in your own words what you have read. Ask yourself questions about the text.

Explain what you have read to someone else, you can also do this in your imagination. Making a summary in your own words provides extra support.

5. Review

Read all the relevant parts of the text again, look at your notes. Possibly improve on your notes, paying extra attention to the parts you found difficult.

Read your own questions on the left side of the text (cover the answers on the right) and try to answer them. This step is the most effective if you do it a day after step 1 through 4.

After following these five steps, you will have actively read a text and you will be better able to remember and explain what it is about.

SQ3R reading method - ToolsHero

Advantages of SQ3R

The main advantage of working with the SQ3R Method is optimum use of your reading time. By first focusing on the structure of the text, you get a foundation on which you can place all relevant information. You will read deliberately, ensuring that you remember the content better.

A fourth R, SQ4R, is sometimes added to the reading method. The fourth R can mean different things, for instance Relate, Record or Reflect. This addition can help you to for example create links to knowledge that you already have or personal experiences (Relate). The with Record version is a more extensive version for making the summary and applying structure in the text.

You can for instance record the structure of the text in a schematic representation or highlight the most important parts of the text. The R for Reflect stands for discussing the theme with others, asking yourself what the topic means to you, finding examples or events that clarify the topic.

The advantage of the SQ3R Method is that you decide what is in it. It provides a foundation for you to use your own (learning) goals, in order to make it work for you.

In conclusion

By using the SQ3R Method, you learn to read more deliberately and actively, ensuring you retain more of the information. Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review!
You can summarise it as follows:

  • Scan the text and recognise the structure;
  • Ask questions about the text and write these down;
  • Actively read the text with the structure and the questions in the back of your mind;
  • Repeat in your own words what you have read;
  • Review the text and your notes.

Now it is your turn

What do you think? How do you apply the SQ3R Method? Do you use the steps above and do you have anything to add? What do you think the advantages of the SQ3R Method are that can contribute to the processing and understanding of written information?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Artis, A. B. (2008). Improving marketing students’ reading comprehension with the SQ3R method. Journal of Marketing Education, 30(2), 130-137.
  2. Johns, J. L., & McNamara, L. P. (1980). The SQ3R study technique: A forgotten research target. Journal of Reading, 23(8), 705-708.
  3. Robinson, F.P. (1961). Effective study. Harper; Revised edition.
  4. Rozakis, L., & Cain, D. (2001). Super Study Skills (Scholastic Guides). Scholastic Reference.
  5. Tadlock, D. F. (1978). SQ3R: Why it works, based on an information processing theory of learning. Journal of Reading, 22(2), 110-112.

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Anneke Kuijk
Anneke Kuijk is a text writer who has the qualities to analyze information and to extract the core message. This converts them into understandable and readable texts. In addition to writing content, she is also active as a teacher (language) integration and in many ways active with language.

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