PQ4R Strategy for Reading and Studying

Like SQ3R, the PQ4R strategy is an individualized method for improving reading comprehension. This six-step process involves previewing, questioning, reading, reflecting, reciting, and reviewing. Besides adding the additional step, PQ4R requires that the text be read in its entirety before reflecting, rather than section by section as with SQ3R.

The PQ4R strategy has many of the same advantages as the more popular SQ3R. It is easy to use and can be applied to readings in most academic subjects. Students can use PQ4R on their own, without the intervention of a facilitator.

Because PQ4R is so similar to SQ3R, the steps are outlined briefly here. For more details, refer to the SQ3R section of this page.


The preview stage of PQ4R is essentially the same as the survey phase of SQ3R. To preview a reading, scan the title, section headings, and visual aids. Read the first and last paragraphs. This should give the reader a general idea of the purpose of the text and the major concepts to be covered. The information gleaned from the preview is used in the next step.


Again, the second phases of PQ4R and SQ3R are identical and involve predicting questions that may be answered in the text. Convert headings into questions or draw upon past experiences to form questions. Look for answers to the questions while reading in the next step.


Unlike SQ3R, the text is read in its entirety with the PQ4R strategy. Carefully read the complete text, recording notes in the margin or underlining important information that answers the predicted questions.


Information from the entire chapter or article is linked together in the reflection phase. The reader should attempt to develop insight into the topic and make associations among the important material noted while reading.


Recitation involves summarizing the main points and supporting details of the complete text. To involve more senses and improve understanding, say the summary aloud or write it down using an information organization tool like flowcharts and outlines.


The final review entails highlighting key points of the text. Make sure the predicted questions have been answered and that the author's purpose is fully understood.

Adapted from the “Learning Strategies Database” provided by the Center for the Advancement of Learning at Muskingum University.


DISSECT Strategy

Here is a great reading comprehension/vocabulary building tool that combines a number of different strategies into one.

Discover the word's context.
-Use context clues to figure how what the word might mean (Synonyms, Antonyms, Explanations, Examples, Deduction, Parts of Speech, Chunking, Vocabulary Activation)

Isolate the prefix.
-Use your “Word Parts” handout to find a prefix (if there is one)

Separate the suffix.
- Use your “Word Parts” handout to find a suffix (if there is one)

Say the stem or root word.
-Repeat the root/stem word to yourself

Examine the root word.
-Do you know the word? Do you know words that look (or sound) the same as the root word?

Check with someone.
-Ask someone for help

Try the dictionary.
-When your other tools have failed, then, and only then, use the dictionary

Retrieved from:
Deshler. "DISSECT Reading Strategies." Learning Strategies Database. Muskingun College-Center for Advancement of Learning. Web. 5 Nov. 2009. .


SQ3R Strategy for Reading and Study

SQ3R stands for survey, question, read, recite, and review. The strategy is an independent study method that aids in student understanding of the organization and meaning of written texts. It is a five-step procedure for making reading more active and improving student understanding of reading assignments. By providing structure and a concrete plan of action, SQ3R empowers students and provides a sense of control over reading tasks. And by requiring that students look at the reading several times and process the information in several ways, SQ3R enhances the registration and recalling of new information in/from memory.

One advantage of SQ3R is it may be used for reading assignments in most academic disciplines, including social sciences, physical sciences, and arts and humanities. The method, however, does not lend itself to numerically-oriented subjects like math and statistics. Additionally, SQ3R can be used for reading a variety of reading materials, including textbooks and journal articles, as long as the structure or organization of the material is not too complex. SQ3R has proven to be an effective strategy for most college-level reading tasks. Another advantage is that SQ3R is relatively simple and straightforward. As such, modelling and feedback by a facilitator usually is not necessary. SQ3R makes reading a more active process, helping to maintain attention and improve remembering.


The first step of the SQ3R strategy is to survey the reading assignment. Surveying involves creating a mental map of the text and selective reading.

To begin surveying, look quickly over the material for textual markers or clues about the manner of organization of the text. These include table of contents, chapter titles, headings and subheadings, and numbering systems. The organizational clues are used to create a "mental map" to help the student move through the material.

The mental map encompasses the general structure of the reading and is used to guide the student as he/she reads. By mentally linking the textual clues, the student is better able to follow the flow of ideas in the reading and to detect the relationships among pieces of information.

If the text lacks headings and other textual markers, the student should pay attention to paragraph breaks and clue phrases like "most important" and "in summary." Use that information to identify the author's main ideas and to create one's own headings in the margin. In fact, accurate mental maps made by the student can be more effective than those based on the author's headings.

Some students chose to record the organizational map on paper rather than to commit it to memory. There are a variety of recording methods; see the Organization page for ideas.

Developing a mental map is important because "detailed information can be remembered only if it is learned in relation to more important ideas" (Bragstad and Stumpf, 1987, p. 251). The map may also be used later when reviewing the text.

The second aspect of surveying is selective reading of portions of text (Bragstad and Stumpf, 1987). First, reread the title and think about it. What previous knowledge do you have about the topic? Can you recall any past experiences with the subject? What do you anticipate learning based on the title? Then read the first paragraph of the chapter or the abstract of the article. They should describe the main topics to be covered in the chapter or paper as well as the author's purposes or goals. Sometimes the results or conclusions will be given in the abstract. Reread the headings to refresh one's memory of the main topics of the text and to check the mental map for accuracy. Read the first sentence of each paragraph, and then read the last paragraph or the summary to get a review of the main concepts or conclusions. Quickly scan the visual aids like figures, photos, and tables.


The second step of SQ3R involves predicting questions that may be answered by the material. The questions are elaborations of the mental map developed in the survey phase, and they serve as an individualized knowledge framework or template to which details may be added later.

By actively engaging one's attention and curiosity, questioning provides the reader with a purpose and makes important ideas more obvious. The student creates meaning for him/ herself. Comprehension is aided by finding the answers to predicted questions when reading as well as by locating important information not covered by the questions. Predicted questions may be used later to study for quizzes and exams.

To develop questions, turn major headings and subheadings into questions. Draw upon previous knowledge and experiences to develop questions that may be answered while reading. Questions that arise while surveying the assignment should be recorded as well. The predicted questions can be compared to those at the end of the chapter. Numbering questions makes it easy to organize the answers later while reading.

With the mental map and predicted questions, one has prepared his/her own knowledge framework to guide reading of the assignment.


With the knowledge structure in mind, read the assignment one section at a time for content. Instead of focusing on isolated details, search for relationships among the main ideas and their supporting details. Look for information that answers the predicted questions, and take note of unexpected ideas.

The reader is advised to refrain from highlighting the text while reading because it may distract him/ her from the content of the text. A better approach is to jot down brief notes in the margins or to indicate the question numbers next to the portions of text that provide the answers.


After reading each section of text, take a few minutes to recall the important points. In order to actively make mental connections among main ideas and details, recite them aloud or write them down. Go over the answers to the predicted questions and/or summarize the section. Recitations should be done without consulting the book unless necessary. Paraphrasing aids in understanding. Immediate recall is essential for registering the information in long-term memory. Without recitation, almost half of what one reads is lost from memory after only one day!


After reading and reciting the text section by section, review the entire chapter or article to see how the information fits together. This total review allows the reader to evaluate his/her understanding of the text, to organize all of the main ideas and supporting details, and to reinforce them in memory.

When reviewing, refer back to the headings and subheadings as well as the predicted questions and answers. Look at notes written in the margins while reading. Information that was underlined or highlighted may also be reviewed. Flowcharts, outlines, and other visual aids may be used to organize the important information, and they provide study aids for future exam preparation. In a few sentences, summarize the purpose and main ideas of the reading; write the summary down or say it aloud. Or, the information generated during the review may be recorded on audio tape for future referral.

Repeating the review process every weeks greatly improves one's ability to remember the information. And, it cuts down on preparation time for exams later.

Adapted from the “Learning Strategies Database” provided by the Center for the Advancement of Learning at Muskingum University.

See Also:

Bragstad, B.J. & Stumpf, S.M. (1987). A guidebook for teaching study skills and motivation (2nd ed). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon

McCormick, S. & Cooper, J.O. (1991). Can SQ3R facilitate secondary learning disabled students' literal comprehension of expository text? Three experiments. Reading Psychology, 12, 239-271.

Neal, J.C. & Langer, M.A. (1992). A framework for teaching options for content area instruction: Mediated instruction of text. Journal of Reading, 36, 227-230.



An effective approach to understanding unfamiliar words is to decipher them part by part. The strategy is useful when reading content-specific material as well as when reading test questions, times when dictionaries may not be helpful or available.

To decipher unknown words, one must become familiar with common prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Knowing what these word elements mean is often helpful in deciphering the meanings of unfamiliar words. Familiarity and proficiency with the word parts come with practice.

It is advantageous for students to become familiar with this strategy because it is very effective when one encounters an unfamiliar word during an exam. In this case, one is not able to consult a dictionary, and the test question may not be long enough to provide adequate context for predicting the meaning of the word. Deciphering word elements may be one's only alternative.

I've attached links to some lists of common word elements (suffixes, prefixes and root words). Click on the blog title to go the list site
Five Steps to Using Word Parts/Elements

1.Identify the unknown word.

2.Break the word up into smaller parts. Say the word aloud to help detect syllables and word parts. Look for a familiar prefix, a suffix, and/or a root word.

3. Consult the list of word parts to find the meanings of the prefix, suffix, and/or root word. Make up your own list of additional word parts that are specific to the subject you are reading. For example, biology students may need to develop their own list with common suffixes like "-cyst" or "-blast" and prefixes such as "neuro-" and "endo-".

4.Use the word parts to predict the meaning of the word.

5.Check your deciphering against the context of the word.

Look at the posts on Context Clues and Transition Words for more information.

Index Method of Studying

Here is a method of studying that gives you an accurate perception of how well you know the material, and forces you to think about it, rather than just look over it.

• Review your notes and readings frequently, so the material is "fresh"

• As you're reading your text or reviewing your notes, write down questions about the material. Imagine you're teaching the course. What questions would you ask on the exam?

• Keep track of any terms you need to know

Try the index card system:

1. Write each question or term on the back of an index card

2. On the front of each index card, write an answer or an explanation for the question or term on the back. Use your notes and text for a reference, but put the answer or explanation in your own words whenever possible

3. Shuffle the index cards so you can't figure out any answers based on their location in the deck

4. Look at the card on the top of the deck: Try to answer the question or explain the term. If you know it, great! Put it on the bottom of the deck. If you don't know it, look at the answer, and put it a few cards down in the deck (so you'll come back to it soon)

5. Proceed through the deck of cards until you know all of the information

Some Tips:

• Carry your cards with you everywhere.

Take advantage of little pockets of time.

Test yourself while you're waiting on line, riding the bus, etc.

• If you think you know an answer, but can't put it into words, you probably don't know it well enough. Explaining the information is a good way to be sure that you know it. It's also a good way to prevent test anxiety

• Test yourself someplace where nobody can see you and recite the answers out loud. That's the best way to be sure that you can explain them

• Study with a friend from your class. You can share ideas and help each other out with concepts. You can use each other to make sure that you're explaining your answers adequately

Deese, James and Ellin K. Deese. How To Study (3rd ed). New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1979.
Raygor, Alton L. and David Wark. Systems For Study. New York: McGraw- Hill, Inc, 1970.


Using Summaries to Improve Reading Comprehension

One strategy for improving reading comprehension is to write summaries. Summaries function to reduce the amount of information to be remembered and to organize the information in a way that aids understanding and remembering.

Writing summaries is useful whether you are reading text-books or a novel.  Also note that the same strategies for writing summaries can be employed as you TAKE NOTES FROM READING or when making summaries within CORNELL NOTES.

Four rules of summary writing are as follows.

Collapse lists.

o If you see a list of things, try to think of a word or phrase as a name for the whole list.

o For example, if you saw a list like eyes, ears, neck, arms and legs, you could substitute 'body parts.' Or if you saw a list like ice skating, skiing and sledding, you could use 'winter sports.'

o In short, substitute a superordinate for a list of items or actions.

Use topic sentences.

o Often authors write a sentence that summarizes a whole paragraph. It is called a topic sentence or a main idea.

o If the author gives you one, you can use it in your summary.

o Some paragraphs do not have explicit topic sentences or main ideas. You may have to invent one for your summary.

Get rid of unnecessary detail.

o Some text information can be repeated in a passage. The same thing can be said in a number of different ways, all in the same passage.

o Other text information can be unimportant or trivial.

o Since summaries are meant to be short, you should delete trivia and redundancies.

Collapse paragraphs.

o Paragraphs are often related to one another.

o Some paragraphs explain one or more other paragraphs. Other paragraphs just expand on information presented in previous paragraphs. Some are more necessary or important than others.

o Decide which paragraphs should be kept, which can be deleted and which can be joined with others.

Five steps of summary writing are provided below.

1. Make sure you understand the text.

o Ask yourself, 'What was this text about?' and 'What did the author say?'

o Try to say the general theme to yourself before you begin to summarize the text.

2. Look back.

o Reread the text to make sure you got the general theme right.

o Also reread to make certain that you really understand what the important parts of the text are.

o Star or mark the important parts of the text.

o Now use the four specific rules for writing a summary.

3. Rethink.

o Reread a paragraph of the text.

o Try to say the theme of that paragraph to yourself.

o Is the theme a topic sentence? (Main idea?) Have you marked it?

o Or is the topic sentence missing? If it is missing, have you written one, in the margin, for example?

4. Check and double check.

o Did you leave in any lists? Make sure you don't list things out in your summary.

o Did you repeat yourself? Make sure you didn't.

o Did you skip anything?

o Is all the important information in the summary?

5. Polish the summary.

o When a lot of information is reduced from an original passage, the resulting concentrated information often sounds very unnatural. Fix this problem and create a more natural- sounding summary.

o Adjustments may include but are not limited to: paraphrasing, insertion of connecting words like 'and' or 'because,' and the insertion of introductory or closing statements.

o Paraphrasing is especially useful here, for two reasons: It improves your ability to remember the material and it avoids using the author's words, otherwise known as plagiarism

Adapted from the “Learning Strategies Database” provided by the Center for the Advancement of Learning at Muskingum University.