Reading Comprehension (SQ4R) – Part 1: Surveying

In this series of articles we look at the well-respected reading comprehension strategy SQ4R

Of the many changes that take place when students progress through high school and into university, the notable increase in reading and research stands out.  Textbooks become more detailed, more comprehensive, and more advanced.  To handle these changes successfully, students must employ more sophisticated reading comprehension strategies.

One excellent reading comprehension approach that has stood the test of time is SQ4R.  This method is demonstrated on many university websites (search SQ4R for a sample) and in this article, we’re going to focus on the first two steps, S and Q:

S = Survey: Before starting to read, students need to ‘take inventory’ of the chapter or unit they’re dealing with.  Reading without any context makes it difficult to decide if information is important or not, so it’s imperative that students take some time to skim the material and try to establish some expectations about what they will encounter when reading commences.

Q = Question: Once students have surveyed the material, they should be able to anticipate the types of questions the chapter will address.  This requires a bit of thinking of course, but is well worth it.  For instance, surveying a Science chapter might make it clear that the chapter is breaking down and discussing various models of the atom.  Ok, if that’s what my survey reveals, what key questions should the chapter address?  How about these:

1)     What each model says and who came up with it?

2)     What research did they use to develop the model?

3)     What was the weakness of the model that led to the development of the next model?

As you can see, the Survey and Question stages of SQ4R involve steps to take BEFORE reading even takes place.  At StudySpot, we refer to these stages together as the Pre-reading stages.  These stages give students a bit of context and allow them to anticipate what they might encounter – excellent first steps toward better reading comprehension.


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