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Thursday, February 9, 2012

SQ3R, Part I


When you have to read an article or a chapter in a book, how do you approach it? That is, what techniques do you use to make your reading more effective?


Here is a way to read book chapters and articles on your own.

It is called "SQ3R." The letters stand for "Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review." Let's talk about the first step, "Survey."

Before reading an article, you should try looking for clues as to what the article is about. In a newspaper article, start with the headline; then look at any pictures and their captions (the words that describe them); and finally, try to understand the first words of the article, the "lead."

The headline is, of course, the "title" of the article. Newspaper headlines often have unusual grammar and specialized vocabulary.

I'm looking at an article whose title says: "Banks urged to make more loans."

If the grammar seems a bit strange, it's because the sentence is "condensed." Words are usually left out of headlines to save space, or to allow for faster scanning. The articles (a, an, the) are often left out, as well as the "be" verbs.

Also note that this headline is in the present tense. As a rule, headline writers use present tense for immediate past information (as here); past tense for past perfect ("went" instead of "had gone," etc.); and future tense for coming events (often in the infinitive: "New film to open next week" instead of "New film will open next week").

As for specialized vocabulary, note the use of "urged." This word appears nowhere in the article, but is common "headline shorthand" for "recommended," "advised," and so on.

The next step in surveying an article is to look for any pictures connected to it, and their captions. This can give you a clue as to what you'll be reading, helping your comprehension. A picture is, after all, worth a thousand words.

Finally, examine the "lead" (sometimes spelled "lede") of the article. This is the first paragraph (sometimes two) and will tell you the main point of the article.

The lead can be a bit tricky, because it will often try to capture a lot of information in only one sentence. This sometimes means adding words and clauses to "squeeze" more in.

The lead that follows the headline above reads: "The State Council said yesterday it would adopt more favorable policies and update the financial system to encourage the country's commercial banks to grant more loans to support economic growth." Whew!

In the next lesson we'll look closer at the lead as we learn the next step: Question.


1. What does "SQ3R" stand for?
2. What three things should you "Survey" in a newspaper article?
3. What is another word for "headline"?
4. Why do some headlines look strange?
5. Why is looking at a picture and its caption helpful?
6. What does a "lead" do?


1. "SQ3R" stands for "Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review."
2. Three things you should "Survey" in a newspaper article are the headline; pictures and their captions, and the "lead."
3. "Title" is another word for "headline."
4. Some headlines look strange because they often have unusual grammar and specialized vocabulary. They are "condensed" (often missing articles [a, an, the] and "be" verbs) and are written in different tenses.
5. Looking at a picture and its caption is helpful because "a picture is worth a thousand words."
6. A "lead" tells you the main point of an article. It often tries to capture a lot of information in only one sentence.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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