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Effective Reading through SQ3R
by Paul

Reading is certainly an essential element of everyone’s studies. This is because reading is a means of discovering information, and a means of expanding your knowledge and understanding of a subject. Furthermore, reading is often very enjoyable! However, there is a general assumption that everyone knows how to read effectively. Not everyone does, and those who do, are often not reading as effectively as they could be.

What are the goals of effective reading? Reading effectively will maximize the comprehension, absorption, and retention, of what you read. Good reading is achieved through “ building mental frameworks for connecting words to thoughts.”

The SQ3R strategy is an effective-reading technique, a technique that extracts the maximum amount of benefit from your reading time. The SQ3R helps to organize in your mind the structure of what you read, and guides you to separate the important information from the less relevant details. As you follow the SQ3R, your goal to maximize your reading comprehension, absorption, and retention, will very likely be achieved.

The SQ3R is an acronym for 5 sequential active-reading stages. These stages are:

• Survey 
• Question 
• Read 
• Recall 
• Review 

S  Survey

Survey the document by examining the material quickly, before you start reading it in depth. A survey is similar to a reading preview. You need only to scan the document, in order to form a shallow overview of the text. As you survey the reading, form an opinion on which of the details are important and useful to know.

Q  Question

While surveying, or right after, write down any questions on the reading subject that come to mind, or questions that particularly interest you. Start by rephrasing the title, headings, and subheadings, into questions. Perhaps scan the document again to see if any additional questions come to mind. As you generate and write the questions, think about possible answers.

R  Read

Now start reading the document at your normal reading speed. Slow down when you come to key passages and important details, taking care to understand all the points that are relevant. How will you know which information is relevant and useful? Think back to what you learned from your survey, and look over your generated questions.

R  Recall

After you finish reading, glance quickly over the document again, focusing on the key places, such as the title, headings, and key paragraphs. Then, with the text closed, briefly summarize the material in your mind, concentrating on the core facts and the essential details. Next, recite your summary aloud or silently, whichever method works best for you. Test your understanding and memory by writing down the answers to your questions which you generated in the Question stage.

R  Review

Begin to review by first reading through your generated questions and answers. Next, continue to review the reading by either just scanning through the important concepts and details, or by rereading the entire document. As you review the reading, feel free to expand your generated questions and answers.


The SQ3R approach will help many students read more effectively. By encouraging you to connect your thoughts with what you read, the SQ3R technique fosters reading comprehension, absorption, and retention. However, this technique may not suit everyone, and it may not suit the reading of every subject area. Therefore, the SQ3R should not be viewed as a rigid set of rules that must be followed in the reading process. But rather, the SQ3R should be considered only as a general guide in the pursuit for effective reading.

For reference and for more information, check these sites: 
(Note that SQ3R is sometimes referred to as SQR3).

How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Mind Tools – SQ3R

(September 1, 2002)

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Weekly Feature Index

(Includes all 2002 to date Weekly Features with descriptions)