The SQ4R Study Method: Recite

The "SQ4R" study method is an evidence-based strategy to maximize the gains you get from studying. The name is an abbreviation, with each letter describing one step of the process. (And yes, SQ4R is an upgrade to SQ3R.) This is the fourth of a series of posts (collect 'em all!) that describe all six steps. So far, you've surveyed a chapter in your textbook, asked yourself some questions, and done some reading. This installment: R (the second).

That's right, there's another R. "SQ4R" doesn't mean you read something 4 times. I guess that can't hurt, but we're looking for more efficient ways of studying and learning here, right? This second R stands for recite. Although you can do this step out loud, you might feel a bit self-conscious about it if you're studying in the library. (SHHHH!) So, a better thing to do is write it down. Write what down?

In doing the recite step, you should recite (or write) in your own words what you've just read. So for example, after reading a section, stop and pull out a piece of paper (or pull out your computer) and try to come up with a summary of what you've just read in your own words. It's important that you put things into your own words. In fact, if you don't put things in your own words, you're mostly wasting your time: you're just copying words from the textbook. If you are able to do this, you're actively organization and interpreting the information you've read.

Research shows that this approach is far superior to a passive approach, like copying sentences from the textbook or (shudder) highlighting. Also, if you are unable to put things into your own words, it reveals a problem with your understanding. This step isn't perfect, because you might put things into your own words that are wrong. Oops. So it can't help you detect a misunderstanding, just a lack of understanding.

At the end of this step, you'll have several pages of notes summarizing the chapter you've read. This is handy for studying and refreshing your memory before an exam. If you don't have time to go through everything you've written, that's OK. The learning takes place not when you re-read your notes, but when you write them down in the first place. Neat, eh?

Why aren't you studying? reciting?

5 comments:

Anastasia said...
on

What's wrong with highlighting?

Karsten Loepelmann said...
on

@Anastasia: Using a highlighter is a form of passive learning. You're sort of saying to yourself, "this looks important--I better remember to remember it." You might actually learn the material as you're highlighting--then again, you might not.

More effective learning is active in nature: reading over a section, and then writing down what you've read in your own words. You have to actively process--and understand--what you've read. If you don't understand it, it means you need to go back and try again.

Anastasia said...
on

I highlighted in 258 without all the extra work of writing down what I just read. I got an A.

Karsten Loepelmann said...
on

@Anastasia: *sigh* But you do know that you're different, right? (In a good way.) For students who are struggling, putting away the highlighter and using this technique can help.

And think how much better you could have done in 258 if only you had followed the SQ4R...

Anastasia said...
on

Fair enough. :) And I guess there are different ways of highlighting. I still try to actively process what I read, I just highlight stuff I think I might forget like lists or specific definitions of terms. Sometimes I just highlight stuff I find funny or interesting.

You mean go from A to A+? I am not sure it would have been worth the time/effort...if I studied more I couldn't have spent as much time on facebook or popping bubble-wrap or staring into empty space or...ok, I'm starting to see your point.

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