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SQ4R: A Method for Reading Textbooks

SQ4R is a method for reading texts that will help you absorb the information you are studying. It is a strategy that applies your senses and allows you to actively engage by translating the text into your own words.


  • Before reading a chapter in your textbook, take some time to skim through it and read any titles and subheadings, as well as the captions beneath any photos charts, maps or graphs.
  • Next, skip to the end of the chapter and read the chapter summary and study questions. This will allow you to determine what important information will be covered in this chapter.


  • Turn each subheading or title into a question. For example, if the subheading is The Placebo Effect, ask yourself: What is the placebo effect?
  • Ask yourself if you already know anything about the subject, or what you remember your professor saying about that topic in class.
  • You may keep these questions in mind, or write them down to reference while reading the chapter.


  • You may now begin to read the chapter. While you read, think about your questions and try to find the answers in the text.
  • Do not merely skim the text looking for answers; engage in active reading. Try to answer the study questions you may remember from the chapter summary.
  • Re-read passages you do not understand. Connect any graphics or charts to the information you are reading.
  • Focus on one section at a time and make sure that you understand what is written.


  • After reading a section, attempt to answer your question using your own words.
  • Try to summarize what you have just read, making special note of any key concepts or terms.
  • If you cannot answer your original question, re-read the section.
  • You may also find that your original question was not applicable, and needs to be changed; for example, “What is qualitative research?” may not have been answered in the section; your question may need to be changed to: “What are some examples of qualitative research methods?”


  • Now that you have read the chapter and understand it, you can record the information.
  • You may do this in whichever way you find to be most helpful, whether it be highlighting the text or writing down notes in your own words.
  • It is important that you understand the material before recording it - do not attempt to do both at once.


  • Once you are finished the entire chapter, read over your notes and use the questions you created to quiz yourself.
  • Try reciting your answers out loud as another way to remember the information.
  • It is also important to integrate a regular review period into your routine, to make it easier to remember old information.
  • If you review your notes on a weekly basis, you will find it much easier to study when it comes time for exams. Instead of re-learning information you have long forgotten, you will simply be reviewing material with which you are already familiar.