In 1946, an American experimental psychologist, Francis Robinson, published a book called Effective Study. He delineated a method to improve reading comprehension: SQ3R. His goal was to help military personnel become better learners. The abbreviation provides the sequence of steps that readers employ to approach text: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review.
Rather than simply passively moving their eyes across a page, active readers become engaged with the text to achieve better understanding. More recently, educators use the term “meta-cognition” to define the process to reflect upon one’s own thinking. Hence SQ3R supports meta-cognition.
The reader surveys the text first, and then poses questions about it while reading (the first R). These include the following: Why am I reading this? What type of reading is this? How is the text structured? What are the topic, main idea, writer’s purpose, tone? As the reader finds answers to these questions, she annotates the text with words, symbols, or highlights, finding key ideas and separating them from the details.
The second R provides the opportunity for the reader to recite, or paraphrase the main ideas, so she can translate and interpret the important concepts into her own framework. Finally, the third R (Review) provides yet another opportunity for the reader to be sure she has answered all the questions she has posed and truly understands the reading selection. As the ancient Latin phrases state: Repetitio est mater studiorem Translation: “Repetition is the mother of learning.”