The SQ3R Method

SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. This method is particularly useful for integrating and remembering a substantial quantity of information, for example, from a textbook or lengthy professional material you need to master.

Survey. The first step is to gain an overview of the material, via a quick read-through or skim. Reading chapter headings and subheadings or the first sentence of each paragraph will yield a mental outline of the material. Look over all associated graphics, including figures, images, and diagrams. If the material contains a concluding summary and associated study questions, read them as well.

Question. The second step is to question yourself about what you've just read. Formulate your questions based on the main points you gleaned from your initial survey. Make the questions provocative and interesting; when you read the material fully in the next step, curiosity will galvanize your focus and your questions will prepare you to categorically encode what you read.

Read. Now carefully read the material for comprehension. Think about your questions as you read. Note taking and underlining should be minimal, focusing only on key concepts. Taking too many notes at this point can interrupt the flow of information and degrade your comprehension.

Recite. As I mentioned earlier, speaking aloud about what you've just read, either to yourself or to someone else, is an excellent means of checking your comprehension and deepening your understanding of the material. Take more detailed notes.

Review. Come back to the material a day or so later. Review any notes you made. Ask yourself how what you've read complements or contradicts other information on the subject. Finally, return to your questions from step two. How would you answer them now? What questions are you left with? Review the material briskly several more times over the course of the next week or weeks. As I discussed earlier, this type of spaced rehearsal will promote effective memory consolidation and retention.

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