What is the SQ3R study method and how to use it?

SQ3R is a study method developed on the basis of research in cognitive psychology which promotes enhanced learning of reading material (APA, 2020).

SQ3R was proposed by Francis P. Robinson, a prominent American educational psychologist, in his book Effective study (1946). In a very recent article in the journal Reading Literacy, Stahl and Armstrong (2020), define Robinson as a pioneer in the development of postsecondary literacy theory, research, and pedagogy who, despite his enormous and various contributions to the field of reading and learning, is most widely known by SQ3R.

What does SQ3R mean?

SQ3R is the acronym for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review, which are the five steps proposed by Robinson when actively and effectively reading one specific text. Through this sequence, the readers are expected to increase their understanding of the text by engaging in the reading process, both before, during, and after, intentionally.

  • Survey (S): initially, the readers start by reviewing the assigned text in order to gain an initial understanding of it by paying attention to its most obvious elements, such as headings, bolded text, or available charts. This first skim provides readers a framework for what will be presented in the text.
  • Question (Q), also called Query: from this initial preview, the readers are in the disposition to start generating questions about the content of the text. For example, they could convert the titles into questions, or they could create more general questions such as “what is this text about?” or “how could the content of this text be beneficial for me?”.
  • Read (R1): as the readers engage in the reading of the text itself, they do it actively, having as a background the work done in the two previous steps. Thus, the questions which were generated during the preview of the text help readers to focus.
  • Recite (R2), also called Retrieve or Recall: as readers move through the text, they recite or rehearse the answers to their initial questions, using their own words. This can be done either in an oral or written form, and it is aimed to support the personal formulation and conceptualization of the content of the text.
  • Review (R3): after the reading is completed, readers review the content of the text by repeating back to themselves what the main ideas of the text were, by using their own words.

An infographic showing quite attractively the steps of the SQ3R method can be seen below.

The SQ3R Method

The fundamentals of the SQ3R method, including both explanation on how to engage in the five different steps outlined above, and justification of why each of these steps is important while engaged in active and effective reading, are provided in the table below, elaborated by the Academic Success Corner of Oregon State University.

On the other hand, for those of you who prefer audiovisual material, below you have three short videos explaining the SQ3R method, and how to apply it.

The SQ3R method and how it improves academic performance

For those of you interested to know a little bit more about academic research related to SQ3R, in the last years, there has been researching investigating the role of the SQ3R method when improving students’ academic performance. Some examples include the Master Thesis developed by Cantu (2006) and focused on undergraduate students, and the Master Thesis by Casson (2012), which provides a comparison between SOAR (Select, Organize, Associate and Regulate) and SQ3R study methods on college students. Other examples encompass a piece of research showing the improvement in marketing students’ reading comprehension when using SQ3R (Artis, 2008) and an investigation exploring teacher students’ reading literacy and vocabulary mastery when implementing SQ3R (Soma, Mukminin and Noprival, 2015).

To know more

Cathy Costello (2020) ‘SQ3R. Reading and understanding’. Virtual library. Available at: https://www.virtuallibrary.info/sq3r-reading-4-understanding.html# (Accessed: 10 November 2020).

Cook Counselling Center (2020) ‘SQ3R Improving Reading Comprehension’. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Available at: https://ucc.vt.edu/academic_support/online_study_skills_workshops/SQ3R_improving_reading_comprehension.html (Accessed: 10 November 2020)


APA Dictionary of Psychology (2020) SQ3R. Available at: https://dictionary.apa.org/sq3r

Artis, A. B. (2008) ‘Improving marketing students’ reading comprehension with the SQ3R method’. Journal of Marketing Education, 30(2), pp. 130-137. doi: 10.1177/0273475308318070

Cantu, P. (2006) Learning more: Does the use of the SQ3R improve student performance in the classroom? Master Thesis. Master of Science. Texas A&M University-Kingsville, US. Available here (Accessed: 10 November 2020)

Jonson, J. (2013) ‘SQ3R Reading Method’. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dhcSP_Myjg (Accessed: 10 November 2020).

Kasson, S. C. (2012) Which Study Method Works Best? A Comparison of SOAR and SQ3R for Text Learning.  Master Thesis. Master of Arts. Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska, US. Available here (Accessed: 10 November 2020)

Khan (2020) ‘What is SQ3R?’ EdTechReview. Available at: https://edtechreview.in/dictionary/4025-what-is-sq3r-sqrrr (Accessed: 10 November 2020)

Manchester Community College (2013) ‘QS3R Reading’. Available at: (Accessed: 10 November 2020)

Oregon State University (2020) ‘SQ3R Reading Strategy’. Academic Success Corner. Available here  (Accessed: 10 November 2020)

Robinson, F.P. (1946) Effective Study. New York: Harper & Row.

Soma, R., Mukminin, A., and Noprival, N. (2015) ‘Toward a Better Preparation of Student Teachers’ Reading Skill: The SQ3R Strategy with Authentic and Simplified Texts on Reading Literacy and Vocabulary Mastery’. Learning, 9(2), pp. 125-134.

Stahl, N. A., and Armstrong, S. L. (2020) ‘So Much More Than SQ3R: A Life History of Francis P. Robinson’. Reading Psychology, pp. 1-35. doi: 10.1080/02702711.2020.1768979