Have you ever complained, "I remember reading it, but not what it said?" If so, then maybe you should try the SQ4R reading method. SQ4R stands for survey, question, read, recite, relate, and review. These six steps can help you learn and remember what you read more effectively.
S = Survey. In the first step take a couple of minutes to skim the chapter. Don't read it. Look at the chapter objectives, topic headings, picture/diagram captions, key words (if any), and read the summary. This peek at the chapter allows you to focus on the prevailing subject before getting bogged down in details. Many texts are organized often with useful coloring to assist you in this process.
Q = Question. As you prepare to read the chapter, turn the first topic into a question or two. As you read you search for an answer to your question(s). It takes only a second to change a topic heading such as "Correlation Studies" into "What is a correlation and what do the studies prove?" This will help you organize your reading - that answers the question, that gives an example, that's just related information that may be a later question, that's how it applies to me. You may find you rephrase the question as you read more. Some early chapters are designed to create more questions which are answered in later chapters (particularly chapter 1). Most importantly, this gives you a purpose for reading the next paragraph.
R = Read. Look for the answer(s) to the question(s) you posed. Read in short "bites," maybe a sentence or two, then determine how that answers your question(s). Often as you read other questions will arise. A series of questions leads to a complex, college level concept that gives structure and relevance to your studies.
R = Recite. Now can you answer your question(s) in your own words? Can you answer your question in the words your instructor would use (such as on a test)? If you can't, then reread the material to find the answer or to determine if you need to change the question. You are rehearsing for the time when you will need to know the answer. A good technique for rehearsing the answers is to briefly jot down the key word or words that will remind you of the essence of the answer without writing down every detail that you can never remember anyway.
Some students highlight most or all of a sentence which diffuses the key word and is much less memorable than written notes. You can use the I-note system to improve your note taking. Quoting material is perfectively acceptable but remember to write down the bibliographical reference with it. Follow this simple rule: before you copy a quote from a source, state your purpose for copying the quote and write the meaning in your own words.
R = Relate. Most of us try to relate what we are reading to what we already know unless we are in too big of a hurry to finish, in which case, we probably won't learn it anyway. It is always easier and more enjoyable to remember information that is personally meaningful. Everything has a context: a word in a sentence, a sentence in a paragraph, a paragraph in a concept, a concept in a topic, a topic in education, and an education in life. Some information may take some reflection time to be able to grasp relationships while other information may require more information, possibly research, to understand how it fits with other data.
R = Review. One way to minimize memory decay is to place the material you have studied firmly in your mind by reviewing it. After you finish reading the entire chapter, skim back over it and any notes you made. Now, without looking, recall the questions and answers that steered your reading. How much detail can you provide? What other questions could you (or your instructor) ask about this material? Can you provide answers to those? Can you determine how much more review you will need to master the concepts? One of the most significant steps to learning, is understanding how much you know and how well you know it.
Effective studying requires effective reading. Rather than getting "intellectual indigestion" reading straight through a chapter, stop to survey, question, read, recite, relate, and review to improve reading comprehension and course grades.
Using SQ4R Reading Method
Survey: Overview
Chapter Survey
Chapter Summary
Question: What's it about?
Chapter Survey
Learning Checks
Read: Sections of the chapter
Key Word(s) (boldfaced)
Take Notes
Recite: Practice
Learning Checks
Key Word(s)
Highlight less than 20%
Relate: Context
Topical Information
Personal Information
Review: Self knowledge evaluation
End of Chapter Quiz
Study Guide
What will the Teacher Ask?