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Use the SQ3R method to read more effectively

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Have you heard of the SQ3R method? It’s an acronym for this five-step process: survey, question, read, recite, and review.

There are many learning methods out there, and you’ve probably heard of a few during your school days. But live long enough, and you will realise learning doesn’t stop even as we graduate.

In fact, there are multiple situations at work where we have to speed read documents and reports to draw up presentations. For folks who often have to research and comprehend, the SQ3R method will come in handy to help you read more effectively.

#1: Survey

The SQ3R method was first mentioned more than 70 years ago in a book by education psychologist Francis P. Robinson. If you want to study any written content the intelligent way, start by surveying the text.

In short, do a quick scan before you jump right into chapter one. Whether it’s a physical book or an e-publication, check out the table of contents to get an idea of the outlines, chapters, and layouts. Then run through the pages to note any imagery or words emphasised in bold and italics.

#2: Question

Once the foundation is laid, it’s time to ask yourself some questions. It would be wise if you have your goal written down somewhere visible. In other words, the reason behind you reading a particular research paper.

When you have your purpose all set, return to the contents table and take a good look at the chapter titles. Grab a pen or pencil and turn those titles into questions. Examine your knowledge of the stated topics by jotting down what you already know.

This step will allow you to understand the author’s intent. When you have a good idea of what the book wants to convey, you can choose the sections you need to read to gain relevant information for your tasks ahead.

#3: Read
A woman taking notes on a book

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Now’s the time to get started. A standard method for many is to take a highlighter and ink the important parts as they go. But a more ingenious plan is to read actively by penning down additional questions by the margin. Then, diligently find those answers to your questions.

When you keep up with active reading, your brain goes through a systematic cycle of processing information. This will help your mind to segregate the chunks of content into Q&As. You will then find it easier to recall information at a later stage.

#4: Recite

Let your voice be heard at this phase, even if you’re alone. The idea here is to return to step two’s questions and try your best to answer them. Instead of regurgitating from the text, use your own words to explain.

Another way to check your understanding is to try explaining it to someone or an imaginary person. For those who find it awkward to talk to themselves and have the time to spare, you can attempt to write a summary of what you’ve read instead.

#5: Review

We’ve finally arrived at the last step of the SQ3R method. It is recommended that you revise a day after you’re done completing the first four steps. Give your brain some time to let the information sink in before you review it.

You may also think of this step as a memory challenge. Unless you’re a genius, no average person can retain information forever by just reading any content once. Keep referring back to the Q&As you’ve built in step 3 or the summary you’ve written in step 4.

Final thoughts

Beginnings are always tricky. But with consistent practice, you will quickly master the SQ3R method and be well on your way to read more effectively in the future! Time is precious, so be sure to optimise it whenever you can.

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