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SQ4R Method

Textbook Reading

The SQ4R Textbook Reading and Study System was developed during World War II by Francis Robinson, a psychologist at Ohio State University and is used for textbook reading. When using the system the reader is provided with an overview of the material, a purpose for reading, a guide to comprehension, and a review strategy. It helps the reader to understand the organization of the textbook and to become familiar with the tools the textbook has to offer. It encourages the reader to become actively involved in the reading process and to develop an interest in the subset matter. The components of the system are:

SQ4R Textbook Reading and Study System
S = Survey (pre-read)
Q = Question
4R = Read, Record, Recite, Review


The survey, pre-reading, or preview portion prepares the student to read. It helps the reader to focus, to set a purpose, and to provide an overview of the information presented in the textbook. Knowing how a textbook is organized and the features that are present increases the reader's ability to utilize the textbook to its fullest.. Surveying gives the reader the opportunity to develop an interest in the subject matter and to serve as a guide to comprehension. It gives the student the opportunity to relate the assignment to information that the student may already know about the topic. This anchoring of new information to prior knowledge is an excellent tool to utilize in the learning process. The more associations and connections you can make between new information and information already stored in your mind, the better your chances to learn and recall the new information.

Step 1
The first step in reading a textbook is to become familiar with the organization of the textbook and the tools that the textbook offers.

Survey the preface or introduction and the table of contents at the beginning of the textbook. This provides the student with information about the author, topics to be covered, organization of the book, order of the material, and available study aids.

Survey the appendix, reference plates, glossary, and bibliography at the back of the textbook. This provides the student with additional resources to be utilized.

At this point the Survey and Question parts of this study system work together.

Step 2
When you first begin to read a chapter in a textbook, do not dive right in and begin reading. To begin:

Survey the selection by reading the chapter titles and sub-titles that are boldfaced. Turn each title and sub-title into a Question. In addition, be sure to read the chapter objectives or chapter outline at the beginning of the chapter and the conclusion or chaper summary at the end. Look at the visual aids such as pictures, graphs, charts, and tables.


As you survey the chapter titles and sub-titles, turn them into questions. Write the questions in the margins of the textobbk or on separate sheets of paper leaving room in between each question for your answer. To form questions use the words how, what, when, where, which, who, and why. For example, if reading a chapter heading entitled recycling, you could pose the question "what is recycling?" In addition to these specific questions, ask yourself general questions such as what do I need to know about the material, what do the terms mean, and what are the visual aids demonstrating? By posing these questions before you read, important facts will jump out at you as you read. The questions serve as a guide to comprehension.


Read actively to find the answers to your questions. Read from bold heading to bold heading keeping in mind the questions you have posed. Write down the answers to your questions as you complete each section. Read with a dictionary at your side. Look up unfamiliar words.

As you read your textbook, take notes on the information to improve your retention and to aid in comprehension of the material.

To Highlight: Be selective.
Read the paragraph first and do not highlight. Then go back, read the paragraph again and now highlight.
Underline key words and phrases.
Do sufficient amount of underlining to give a complete thought.
Do not underline complete sentences.
Put stars next to key points.
Put question marks next to material you do not understand.
Use arrows to connect ideas.
Use different colors for emphasis.

Recite aloud the answers to your questions without looking at the answers. Recite aloud the terms and definitions. Say the answers in your own words, giving examples.

Once you have completed the entire assignment, go back over each section and review the answers to your questions, the terms and definitions. In addition, review the questions at the end of the chapter. If you cannot answer a question, review the section again until you know the answer. Write down a summary of the material.