The SQ3R Reading Method

It must be autumn because I have taken my boat out of the water for the winter and there has been a stock market crash!

The SQ3R is a strategy for effective academic reading which has been around for decades. It is all about standing back and looking at the outline of the text you are going to read, preparing for the reading by getting some questions ready, looking for answers as you read, remembering what you read and then reviewing what you’ve read so you don’t forget it. All these techniques lead to ACTIVE reading and reading with a DEEP APPROACH which I have mentioned before. It is completely different to the casual reading that you do in your spare time. You might be thinking ‘That sounds like hard work!’ and you would be right – it is WORK. Rather like an athelete who has to put the hours in to become fit enough to win a competition, students have to put the hours in to learn their subject and polish their academic skills so they can do well in their studies.

SQ3R stands for:


Survey the text you are going to read. This means reading the title and thinking about what it means. Look through the text and look at the sub-headings and the summary. Look at any diagrams or pictures. After your survey you should have a good idea about what the text is about.


Before you start reading carefully look at the first heading and think of some questions that you think will be answered in this section of the text. If the text is ‘THE STORY OF COCA COLA’ and the first section has the heading ‘Beginnings’ then you might note down some questions such as:

When was the company started?

Where was it started?

Who started it?

Now you have a reason to read! Your reading should be focused with an aim.


Now read that first section of the text and look for the answers to the questions that you wrote. You may not find all the answers, but what is important is that you are reading for a good reason and you will try to understand everything you read because you are looking for particular information. You may find other important information that you didn’t think of asking about. MARK YOUR TEXT! Underline things, write things in the margin!


When you have finished reading that section stop! Can you now say what the most important parts of the text that you read are? Can you look at the questions that you wrote earlier and say the answers out loud without reading the text? This RECALL is sometimes referred to as RECITE which means ‘to say something from you memory’. If you can’t recall or recite the main points of what you’ve read then it hasn’t made an impression on you!


When you have worked through the whole text this way you need to review what you have read. But not just once at the end of your reading. If you never looked at this text again, it is unlikely that you would remember the content of what you read very well. Can you say what the main points of the text are the next day? If you reviewed your reading by recalling the main points of the sections of the text the following day then you would be helping this information get into your long-term memory. It is not a case of memorising sentences word for word, but a case of reviewing the main points so that you can articulate them in your own words.

There are any number of good web resources which give further information about SQ3R, just google SQ3R and you will find plenty. You should always use a number of different sources to gain a proper understanding of something.  Birbeck College, University of London, have some great learning resources. You can see the list via today’s link. Scroll down to READING SKILLS and follow the link for ‘Reading Academic Texts: SQ3R’.  Here it is.