The SQ4R Study Method: Relate

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 fifth 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, done some reading, and recited what you've read. This installment: R (the third).

This third R stands for "relate," and it's based on a fundamental aspect of human memory. When we learn and remember something, it's not like the memory gets plunked into a little mailbox. We learn by associating new things with things that we already know. The implication is that if you want to remember something, it's best to tie it into your knowledge structures.

Now, if you've just read something that didn't make any sense (don't worry, this happens to the best of us--er, I mean other people), it's going to be pretty hard to relate it to other things you know. Take learning the alphabet: alphabetical order doesn't relate to anything else you know, so you've got to learn a little song to help you remember its arbitrary order. This explains why it's so difficult to remember things that are complete gobbledygook--nonsense is impossible to tie into our existing memories. So, things have to make sense. Fortunately, the previous step of reciting has helped ensure that you know what you've read (see how things are getting integrated together so nicely?).

When you're reading and you really want to remember what you've learned, think of how the material relates to you personally. Fortunately, this applies easily to psychology, especially topics like memory, sleep, and learning. (OK, not so much when it comes to sociopathic behaviour or brain damage, I hope.) But even if the things you're learning do not apply to you, research shows that the enhancement of learning and remembering comes when you do the comparison. So if you're reading about sociopathic behaviour and conclude that that's so not you, you've just improved your learning. Bonus!

Why aren't you studying? relating?


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