Become a Better Reader by using the SQ3R Method

Do you always miss out on some crucial points while reading a book? Do you wish to improve your reading skills so that you can efficiently gather all the important information while researching? Then, the SQ3R method is what you need to use. It is required for any student to have efficient reading skills in order to get the actual essence out of a book or study material. In order to create exceptional academic papers, it is necessary for students to gather sufficient and relevant information. And this can only be attained through effective reading.   

Brief History

SQ3R stands for ‘Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review’. This 5-step study and reading method was established by a Psychology professor, Francis Pleasant Robinson in his book ‘Effective Study’ in 1946. At the time of World War II, groups of military personnel were sent to different educational institutions to get rigorous training in relevant skills. Francis was the head of Ohio State University’s ‘Learning and Study Skills program’ and he developed the SQ3R method on the basis of his research. He built this method in order to help the army efficiently in acquiring the special skills quickly. From that time onwards, several by-products of it like SQ4R and PQRST have been recommended.

Student Studying

Through this method, students or readers can take a systematic approach to efficient reading. Thomas G. Sticht, in his narration prior to the 2002’s Veteran Day, described this method as ‘the reading formula that assisted to win the Second World War’. Originally, this method was introduced by Robinson to systematically read the college textbooks so that, the important information can be easily memorized. When he was creating this method, he considered textbooks containing chapters with different headings.


Reading any textbook can be overwhelming for any student as it is jam-packed with many texts, images, charts, etc. Strategic reading is crucial for any student to pick out the most important information in lesser time. Using strategy for dealing with academic assignments can help an individual to read efficiently and also make the person a better learner. It has been proven that the 5 step SQ3R method assists the readers to easily understand and think about the content he/she just read. This method enables the reader to process and understand the information simultaneously.

This method is great for not only the students but, any individual who has to depend on written information for his/her work. Anybody with a desire to actively read and understand a written text must apply this method while reading.



Instead of being a passive reader where one simply go through the text from the top to bottom, at first, and then, pick out the important parts, you should follow this five step-method. This way, you can tackle content in a more effective way. The five steps include the followings: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.

Before you begin, you must allocate sufficient time to create your study session. Make a working plan for this and do add break time into your study session.

1. Survey: At first, before starting to read, you must survey the chapters of the book. To be clear, survey refers to doing an overview of either one chapter or the whole textbook. You will have to scan the different elements of the book or the chapter. You should do the following:

  • Generate interest- When you start surveying, you should engage yourself. This will help motivate you so that, you go through the entire text. Along with this, you must also develop a sense of what is important.
  • Read the name of the chapter or the book- By reading this, you will prepare your mind for the topic that you are going to deal with. In addition, you will know exactly what you are going to read about.
  • Go through the introduction- Read the summary or introduction section carefully. Thus, you can concentrate on the key points of the text. This can also help you to find out the author’s intention. What does the author want the readers to do or understand after completing the book.
  • Give extra attention to the different types of headings used- By doing this, you will understand the method the author has used to organise and built the topics. As the subheadings and headings suggest the details, you should read them carefully.
  • Look carefully into the figures used- You can easily get a lot of information and understand it easily by examining the graphs, charts, and diagrams used in the text.
  • Pay attention to the specific terms or keywords used- See whether the unknown terms have been clearly defined in the text or not. You will also need to check whether any note is created where the meaning of a specific word has been given. Also, look for any bold or italic word as it can be important.
  • Make a context– You must form a context for you to remember the information you are reading.
  • Check out the questions– At the end of the chapters, there can be different questions or problems given. Thus, you will know about the major concepts on which you should be focusing.

2. Question: While reading, you should ask certain questions for each part of the text. Following this, try to find the answer to those questions from the text you are reading. One way to create the questions is to turn the headings into separate questions. Alternately, you can also use some basic questions which are:

  • What the main point of the text is?
  • Is there any evidence or supporting data to back up the key points? If yes, what are they?
  • What examples or applications have been given?
  • What is the relevance between the part being read and the entire book or other chapters or the world outside?

Question formation helps you engage and focus more on the text you are going through. Put enough effort into creating the questions as you will have a better understanding if you generate the right questions.

3. Read: Actively read each part of the text. As mentioned before, while reading, try to detect the answer to the questions you created previously. At the time of reading, you can take notes and remember the important details. Do not rush while reading; instead, take all the time to read the text slowly with full concentration. Remember the following points while reading the text:

  • Start reading the section by recalling the questions you created.
  • Try to understand which are the key points of the part you are reading. Note them down so that, you can easily remember them later when needed.
  • For active reading, it is necessary to highlight or underline important points and to build a study guide.
  • Do not avoid reading the sections which contain difficult to understand or technical terms. Try to understand the meaning of the words either from the text itself or by doing a separate research.
  • Do not hesitate to read the text several times until you get a clear understanding of the whole text.
  • Concentrate on one section at a time instead of reading the whole text at once

4. Recite: Once you are done reading one section of the text, recite it. Ask yourself questions and answer them using your own words. Do employ all of your senses to better remember the text you just read. Speak out loud or write the information down in order to recite it. Reciting is extremely crucial for understanding and memorising things. If you can easily remember the major points or the key idea of the section, this means you have understood what you have read. If you can’t, it means you haven’t understood that particular part of the text. Until and unless you can clearly recite one part, do not move to the next section.

5. Review: This is the last step of the method. Here, you will read the entire section once again and go through your notes. After finishing a chapter, review it immediately. If you have highlighted any section, reread it. Along with this, try to answer the questions that you have created. If you cannot, read again to revive your memory. Once you are done with the reviewing part, write a hierarchical summary of the whole chapter. You can use this summary to write any assignment of yours.


The effectiveness of the SQ3R method has been proven in different studies. A research conducted on the fifth graders revealed 14 out of 28 students enhanced their scores of reading comprehension. Students who have never used a study strategy received a score of 7 out of 10 that was 5.8 before the intervention took place.

Many reputed educational institutions suggest using this study strategy to their students for effective reading. Some of such institutions are: NHTI Concord’s Community College, Bentley University, University of Nebraska, University of Southern Maine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, etc.

Conclusion: If you are a student, the SQ3R method is one that you must use for effective reading. This is the best way you can pluck out the major information from a text and attain a much better understanding of what you read. The better you comprehend the text, the better you will be at creating valuable assignments.