[Loyola University Chicago]

SQ3R for Primary-Source Coursework

a guide prepared by
Dr. Jacqueline Long
Department of Classical Studies

Read with Commitment

It sounds simple, even self-evident. If you want to learn by your reading, you are asking the activity to change you. You want to know more than you did before, to understand better, to experience beauty or humor or truth, and thereby to gain power with which to do other things you want to do. It's not going to work merely to give space in your brain, temporarily, to somebody else's words, as if you were a storage-closet that could contain Apennine orogeny at one moment and Etruscan hydraulic engineering at another, and never allow a particle of the one to be seized on by the other's technology. Inertness stops bodies of knowledge from enriching one another or you. Instead, engage with your reading: give it not only space but traction. Help it to become able to return value to you. But how?

Many university Learning-Support Services recommend versions of something called SQ3R. Francis Pleasant Robinson formulated these practical steps of enacting a commitment to learning through reading, in a series of books and revised editions from 1941 (Diagnostic and Remedial Techniques for Effective Study) to 1970 (Effective Study, 4th edn.). Robinson's steps of SQ3R were Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. Some variants insert a W for Write, or alter the old-fashioned verb "recite" to Recall or (with odious contrivance) wRite: Robinson included writing within his step Recite. Another variant gets called SQ4R as it adds an R for Relate - more significantly than the variants that add wRite or Record to the orignial SQ3R as a separate step. But these recommendations are generally described in terms of reading in a textbook that pre-digests a fixed lesson. Original learning, by contrast, can be pursued by reading productively in primary sources, analyzing, developing, and testing ideas, and forming new understandings when you put your sources into different connections.

The following schema adapts SQ3R to this more creative, rigorous, engaging challenge:

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Revised 18 June 2019 by jlong1@luc.edu