What is SQ3R?
SQ3R stands for survey, question (or query), read, recite, review. It is a method designed in the 1940s to improve reading comprehension. Here is the brief overview of each step:
Survey: First, go through and get a lay of the land. Look at headings and subheadings, graphics, highlighted words, maybe summary paragraphs. Get an overview.
Question/Query: Generate questions about the text that you can answer as you read it. These can be general (e.g. What is this section about?), more specifically targeted at the content of, say, the subheadings, or targeted at how the knowledge might be useful for your purposes.
Read: Start actually reading, but as you do, use the questions that you generated above to create a more active reading process.
Recite: Describe what you have just read. This could be done out loud or in written format, but try to recall everything in your own words.
Review: Come back to the material again to review, trying to answer the questions that you generated before.
Ok, so, if you use this method you may have just read my descriptions and said, “Uh, that’s not what that means.” Here’s the kicker: There is wide disagreement on not only what each letter stands for, but how it is appropriately applied. In doing some research, I found one place that said this was “Survey, Question, Read, Reread, Recheck” and lots of others that described “Recite” as going back through and answering the questions while looking at the passage and others that describe “Review” as rereading. This is already leading us into bad news territory; a lot depends on how you’re using SQ3R.
Is SQ3R supported by science? The theoretical answer…
Theoretically, this method looks pretty good. The survey method helps to produce some overarching organization for the reader before they start reading and we know that organization is an important aspect of understanding and retaining information (1).
Using questions sounds very similar to elaboration, which is an effective way to connect new knowledge with information you already know and aids in organization. If they’re answering these questions during the read portion, then they’re engaging in the second half of the elaboration process.
Recite is essentially retrieval practice and checking for understanding.
Review seems to either incorporate feedback for the recitation OR involves spacing (depending on when the review is taking place).
All in all, that bodes pretty well for the SQ3R method. But here’s the bad news…