SQ4R is a method that identifies the components of active reading and provides a guide for navigating among them. SQ4R prompts a reader to survey, question, read, respond, record and review material.
This method can be used for reading any type of material at any stage of your research assignment.
Video Transcript: Reading Textbooks Using SQ4R
SQ4R is a method of reading text that allows you to truly absorb the material you’re studying. It places emphasis on translating the text into your own words, so that you really understand it.
SQ4R contains six steps, as the name indicates: survey, question, read, respond, record, and review.
First, you survey the text. So before you read a chapter of your textbook, for example, you should first skim through it. Read the titles, subtitles and captions, look at any charts, pictures, or graphs. Finally, read through the chapter summary at the end. If there are summary questions, read those too. It will give you an idea of what’s important in the chapter.
Next, we move into “Question.” Turn each subheading or title into a question. So, here, the subheading is “Communication Technology.” The question, in the context of this chapter, would be: “How has communication technology changed the world of work?” You can keep it in your head, or write it down to remember it. Then ask yourself if you already know anything about the subject. Maybe you remember your professor saying something about it in class. Keep that in mind as well.
Now it’s time to read. But don’t just read the chapter to get through it. Try to actively read. Think about the questions you asked and search for the answer. Remember the questions from the summary, and try to find their answers too. Focus on one section at a time, and make sure you understand it. If you don’t understand it, reread it. Look at the charts or images, and connect them to the text.
You’ll then be ready to respond. Summarize what you just read to yourself and make a special note of key concepts. It helps to recite your answers out loud in order to engage another one of your senses. Now try to answer your original question in your own words. You may also find that your question wasn’t actually the right question to ask. “What is qualitative research?” might not work if the passage was written to provide examples rather than a definition. You’d have to change your question to “What are some examples of qualitative research methods?”
Now that you’re sure you understand the chapter, you can move onto recording the information. This can be done in whichever way you find most helpful. You can highlight key passages or write notes in your own words. Of course, writing your own notes gives you the advantage of actively learning the information, as well as giving you a portable packet of notes you can study from, anywhere, without lugging a textbook around. It will make the next step significantly easier, as well. The most important thing is that you understand the material before you record it. Don’t attempt to do both at once.
Finally the last step: “Review.” Now that you’ve finished with the chapter, read over your notes. Now use the summary questions and questions you created to quiz yourself. Recite your answers out loud to help you remember. It’s also helpful to regularly review. If you review once a week, studying for your exams will be much easier. You’ll simply be remembering information you already know, rather than relearning information you forgot.
(Video produced by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s Academic Success Centre, 2012.)