Strategy 8: The SQ3R Reading Method
Version Date: February 27, 2014
SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. This method
is a learning strategy designed to improve your recall of what you read
through a process of repeated and varied engagement with the material.
is one of the keys to memory--the more often we encounter something,
the more deeply it sinks into our long-term memory. In the past, some
students have decided to read their assignments twice, as a means of
familiarizing themselves more fully with the content. However, better
than twice reading are methods that involve working with the reading
material in some way. Summarizing and paraphrasing are two of these powerful methods.
Another is the SQ3R method.
The five steps of the SQ3R provide five active engagements with the
assignment, requiring the reader to do
something with the reading. Interacting with reading material
creates a much stronger learning experience that simply passively
Here are the steps in the method.
In this step, also called scan or skim, you survey the entire
assignement to get an overview. Our brains like to know the general
context of things in order to fit them together, so a survey of the
entire book or article helps you understand where the author is going.
Insight into the structure, arrangement, and sequence of the reading
allows you to form a mental framework for it. For example,
knowing that the author will be developing a caus and effect argument
lets you know that one or more causes will be discussed first, and then
a detailing of the effects.
For long works, such as an entire book or monograph, it is often
helpful to draw out a visual representation of the writing. A mind map,
flow chart, or other diagram will allow you to keep track of where you
are in the argument or discssion. And if you need to return to the book
later (studying for a test, writing a reasearch paper, or just in need
of consulting it), the diagram will help you locate what you need much
faster and regain the context of the discussion.
Survey the reading by following these steps.
Extra Tip: Look through the index to see what topics and what people
are listed. This can give you a bit of insight into what the author
- Read the blurbs on the dust jacket of the book (back cover for
- Look at the table of contents to see what the topics are and how
the book is organized
- If present, read the objectives, overview, or chapter outlines.
- Page through the book, looking briefly at the major headings
- Read the major headings and subheadings of the first chapter.
- Read the discussion questions at the end of the first chapter.
Survey Procedure--Articles, Modules, Web pages
- Read the abstract or overview
- Read all the headings and subheadings
- Go to the end of the reading and read any section labeled
"Summary," "Conclusion," "Application," or the like.
Creating a few questions about the reading increases interest,
curiosity, and attention to it, as you read carefully in order to
answer them. Questions can be created from your look at the chapters,
pictures, graphics, or from the map you drew. Here are some sample
questions created about an article discussing an archeological dig that
found artifacts dated at 20,000 years old.
- What evidence will the author produce that will be convincing
about the date of the artifacts?
- Will he respond to critics or alernative theories?
- What methods of dating will he use?
- This article was written twelve years ago. Have there been any
responses to it? Is it still current? How can I find out?
- I wonder what he means by "in situ anomaly"?
Read the work carefully and actively. Don't just sit back at breeze
through it. If you own the book (such as a textbook) or have a printout
of the article, mark it up.
If you don't own the work or are reading from the screen,
- Use a highlighter, or better, underline important phrases and
sentences with a pen. Re-read the sentences you mark as you mark them,
so they will be remembered better.
- Write notes in the margin: summaries, paraphrases, agreements,
objections, aditional examples, counter examples, cross references
- Draw diagrams or tables in white space areas of the reading, to
graphically represent content. (For example, a teeter totter or scale
to show a balance or tradeoff between two things.)
For all the reading, answer the questions you formulated earlier.
- Take notes about the key ideas
- Copy sentences of importance (being sure to put quotation marks
around them and citing the page number)
- Create diagrams to show the structure of the argument (idea map,
flowchart, fishbone diagram, matrix)
Reciting is the process of reproducing the important ideas from the
reading. Here, "reproducing" means any of the following:
Reciting is a powerful memory tool because it causes you to engage the
material again (repetition is a key to learning), requires that you
work with and process the ideas, not just read them (transforming
reading material in some way enhances learning), and if you recite
aloud by reading your notes, you get the benefit of dual
encoding--visual and auditory (eyes and ears) channels are both
- Recite out loud the key concepts you remember
- Explain to a friend, study buddy, or study group what the claims
and evidence are, what your evaluation is, what was important in the
reading, or a summary of it.
- Summarize the material, in whole or by section or chapter
- Paraphrase important claims, ideas, or definitions
- Recite on paper or computer file by creating an outline, summary,
comments, objections, confirmations, additional examples, a FAQ
(Frequently Asked Questions with answers), a mind map, or other
To review your reading experience, do this:
- Page through the assignment, re-reading the printed headings and
subheadings, and also the underlined or highlighted sentences, together
with your notes in the margin (or notebook or word processing file).
- Look again at the overview or abstract of the material, together
with any summaries you created. Check to see that the notes you made
agree with the printed material.
- Review the questions and answers you created.
- GIve an ad hoc verbal summary and commentary on the reading
assignment. You might pretend to give a speech about it to a group of
To take your reading assignment and go to the next level of high
performance learning, do one or more of the following:
- Write a song whose lyrics summarize the assignment, naming key
concepts, the order of steps, etc.
- Write a skit in which the actors discuss the material, perhaps
playing one-upmanship (where each character adds another detail to the
previous character's lines) or if the material iincluded diffferent
perspectives or positions, write the skit as an argument between the
- Make a video showing some of the information visually, or showing
visual metaphors for the information.
- Create a PowerPoint presentation of the material, with graphics
and possibly audio narration. (Save it as a self-running show or as a
Learning Strategy 1: Mnemonics
Learning Strategy 2: Paraphrasing
Learning Strategy 3: Summarizing
Learning Strategy 4: Self Monitoring
Learning Strategy 5: Self Explanation
Learning Strategy 6: Mental Rehearsal
Learning Strategy 7: Self Assessment
Learning Strategy 8: The SQ3R Reading Method
Learning Strategy 9: Note Taking
Learning Strategy 10: The Leitner Flash Card
Learning Strategy 11: Maintaining Interest
Learning Strategy 12: Conversation
Learning Strategy 13: Group Interaction
Learning Strategy 14: Idea Mapping
Learning Strategy 15: Drawing Pictures
Learning Strategy 16: Study Cycles
Learning Strategy 17: Sleep and Rest
Learning Strategy 18: Fluency / Automaticity
Learning Strategy 19: Learning Strategy Checklist
Learning Strategy 20: Asking Questions
Learning Strategy 21: Idea Linking
Learning Strategy 22: How to Use a Book
Learning Strategy 23: Active Listening
Learning Strategy 24: Close Reading
Learning Strategy 25: Fluency / Automaticity
Learning Strategy 26: Power Thinking
Learning Strategy 27: Planning for Learning
Learning Strategy 28: Outlining
Learning Strategy 29: Analogies
2013 by Robert Harris | How
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About the author:
Harris is a writer
and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the
and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com