How to Read Textbooks | Webster University

How to Read Textbooks

Use the SQR3 method of reading to be an active and effective reader

The passive reader learns little. The aggressive reader organizes information and answers questions.

The SQR3 Method of Reading: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review

  • Survey the chapter.
  • Read the introduction to the chapter.
  • Look over the major section headings. Glance at the figures.
  • Skim questions, key words and summaries at the end of the chapter.
  • Create a context for remembering information.
  • Generate interest and a sense of what is important.
  • Plan your study session. Set a time limit for working. include breaks and rewards

Question. Create and answer questions.

For each section in the chapter, ask these 4 basic questions:

  1. What is the main point?
  2. What evidence supports the main point?
  3. What are the applications or examples?
  4. How is this related to the rest of the chapter, the book, the world, to me?

Read the section.

  • Skim or read the section actively. Search for the answers to your questions.
  • Make notes in the margins to create your own organization (see below).

Recite the main points.

  • Look up from the book and verbalize the answers to your questions.
  • Talk out loud and listen to the answers. Recite to remember.


  • Now go back and highlight or underline the main points in the section.
  • Add more notes in the text and margin.

Repeat SQR3 for each section; mini-survey, question, read, recite and review. When finished, create a one page hierarchical summary of the entire chapter. Now do any homework assignments. Use your summary first, then the text.

Review often and reward yourself for a job well done.

How to mark the book

Do not highlight or underline main points while you read. Most students make too many marks. Wait until you've finished a paragraph or section, then mark.

Mark the text and the margin to outline the structure of the book. For each main point, indicate evidence, examples, steps, proofs, connections to other points, definitions and your own thoughts. The book holds the information. Your marks create organization. Mark to simplify review.

From How to Be a Successful Student, Donald Martin, c 1988.

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