15 Read with a Purpose:  The SQ3R Strategy

Textbooks require different reading methods than you might use for a novel, magazine, or website. When you approach a textbook, you are using it as a tool to learn the material that you need to know for your course. To achieve your aims, you will want to read with a purpose. One method for reading purposefully is called SQ3R. The acronym SQ3R reminds you of the elements of this reading method – Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review – that will help you become a more effective reader.

Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review
Image Credit: Rawia Inaim


  • Survey the title: Think about what you may already know about that topic.
  • Survey the introduction: It gives you an idea about how the chapter is organized, and what you will be learning.  If your chapter includes a list of Learning Objectives, you will want to pay particular attention to these. The Learning Objectives outline the key concent you will want to master as a result of your reading.
  • Survey anything in bold: Subtitles are labels. Other bolded items may be definitions that you will need to know.
  • Survey the pictures, charts and graphs: Glance at these to pick out things that seem interesting or informative.
  • Survey the summary at the end: This will review and give you the key points in the chapter.
  • Survey the questions at the end of the chapter: These will help focus your attention on the main points.
  • Survey your course syllabus/course presentation and see what topics the Instructor is focusing on.


When you have completed your survey, you will begin reading, focusing especially items that you identified as important when you survey.  Write “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How” questions for each subtitle or definition (you can do this as you progress through the reading).  These questions will become the headings in your notes.


Read to answer the questions you have created.  Once you have found the key information needed, move to the next step.


  • Recite the answer to your question out loud. Do this as if you are explaining to a study partner.
  • After reciting, write this information down.
  • Repeat this step for each question that you created.


  • Stand back and look at the chapter as a whole.
  • How do the ideas and facts you learned from each subsection fit together?
  • Review your notes to be sure they make sense to you.[1]

Try it!

Open your textbook to the chapter you are reading and complete the steps below.  Download this printable worksheet for a template to guide you as you read and take notes.

SURVEY: After surveying the chapter, what do you think it will be about?

QUESTION: Turn the first subtitle into a question.

READ: The section to answer the question.

RECITE: Answer the question in your words. (Repeat for the rest of the chapter)

REVIEW: After reading the chapter, what new things did you learn?

Extend Your Learning

Not all courses use textbooks as primary sources and you may encounter academic journals during your required readings.


  1. Robinson, F.P. (1978). Effective Study (6th ed.). New York: Harper & Row.


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