Textbook Reading Systems

Textbook reading systems help you interact with the information in textbooks so that you can better internalize and learn


The SQ3R is a systematic method designed for studying a textbook. Developed by Francis P. Robinson, a psychologist from Ohio State University, the SQ3R is an effective reading system which has been successfully used by many students.

  1. SURVEY: Glance over the headings in the chapter to see the few big points that will be developed. Also read the final summary paragraph if the chapter has one. This survey should not take more than a minute or two and will show the main ideas around which the discussion will cluster. This will help you organize the ideas as you read them later.
  2. QUESTION: Now begin to work. Turn the first heading into a question. This will give you a specific purpose for reading the material and thereby increase comprehension. It will bring to mind information already known, thus helping you to understand that section more quickly. The question will also make important points stand out at the same time that explanatory detail is recognized as such.
  3. READ: Read to answer that question, i.e. to the end of the first headed section. This is not a passive plodding along each line, but an active search for the answer.
  4. RECITE: Having read the first section, look away from the book and try to recite the answer to your question IN YOUR OWN WORDS. If you can do this you know what is in the book; if not then glance over the section again. Repeat these first 4 steps for each section.
  5. REVIEW: When the lesson has been read through in this way, look over your notes to get a birds-eye view of the points and their relationship and check your memory of the content by reciting the major subpoints under each heading. This checking of memory can be done by covering up the notes and trying to recall the main points. Then expose each major point and try to recall the subpoints listed under it.

The P2R System

  1. PREVIEW: Begin by reading the introduction or, if there is none, the first couple of paragraphs. Next, page through the book and read the headings. Glance at any charts, graphs, diagrams, or pictures. Finally, read the last paragraph or two. The goal of this step is to get an overview of the material and develop a sense of the progression of ideas.
  2. READ: Now mark ten pages of reading and read the material, taking notes or highlighting important information. The number of pages you read can be adapted to the particular book you are reading.
  3. REVIEW: After reading ten pages, review the information. You can do this in a number of ways: 1) summarize, in your own words, the author’s main points; 2) write down three or four sentences summarizing what you’ve read; 3) close the book and recite the key information under each heading; 4) quiz yourself on questions or problems at the end of the chapter; 5) create questions you may see on the exam about this material and answer them.

The S-RUN System

  1. SURVEY: First, survey the chapter. Read the title and the introduction, as well as all headings, charts, diagrams, and graphs.
  2. READ: Now read the section.
  3. UNDERLINE: Underline material that explains the section’s heading.
  4. NOTETAKING: After completing the previous steps, take notes on the material. Summarize the main points of the section.

Adapted from: Van Blerkom, D.L. (2009). College study skills: Becoming a strategic learner. Boston: Wadsworth-Cengage.

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