The first step in the SQ4R method of active reading is to survey or scan a resource, keeping in mind your topic and the purpose of your assignment. The purpose of surveying is to gain a general sense of the authors’ ideas and their relationship to the topic.

For this step:

  1. Examine the chapter and section titles, headings and subheadings. For a book, scan the table of contents.
  2. Read introductions, conclusions, abstracts and chapter summaries. The first sentence of each paragraph typically provides a framework.
  3. Take note of any bold or italic print.
  4. Observe graphics, diagrams, charts, tables, formulae and boxed inserts.

Surveying materials is an important first step in reading at any point in working on your assignment. It can assist you in getting organized by helping to determine the appropriateness of a resource, but it is a particularly important first step with texts that you plan to read closely. Surveying provides a framework for understanding a resource.