Learning Strategy 8: The SQ3R Reading Method 

Robert Harris
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. Repetition 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 reading assignment, requiring the reader to do something with the reading. Interacting with  reading material creates a much stronger learning experience that simply passively reading it.

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 Procedure--Books

Survey the reading by following these steps.

  1. Read the blurbs on the dust jacket of the book (back cover for paperbacks)
  2. Look at the table of contents to see what the topics are and how the book is organized
  3. If present, read the objectives, overview, or chapter outlines.
  4. Page through the book, looking briefly at the major headings
  5. Read the major headings and subheadings of the first chapter.
  6. Read the discussion questions at the end of the first chapter.
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 discusses.

Survey Procedure--Articles, Modules, Web pages
  1. Read the abstract or overview
  2. Read all the headings and subheadings
  3. 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.

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,
For all the reading, answer the questions you formulated earlier.


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 activated.


To review your reading experience, do this:

High Performance Learning
To take your reading assignment and go to the next level of high performance learning, do one or more of the following:

VirtualSalt Home
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 System
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
Copyright 2013 by Robert Harris | How to cite this page
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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com