SQ3R method for science communication: Read actively, communicate effectively

SQ3R method for science communication: Read actively, communicate effectively
Effective scicomm can help influence public viewpoint towards science. To ensure favorable outcomes, it is imperative for SciCommers to build a sound understanding of a concept before communicating. Furthermore, to interview an author for an upcoming project or to answer peers’ comments it is important to decipher a piece of text accurately. So, reading, reading, and reading some more is a task no scicommer can evade. But, it can both be a boon and bane. While reading a lot does awaken the inner Einstein, yet it can also become a mundane task. Plus there are perils of losing interest, getting lost in the maze of scientific jargon, and much more. Thereby, employing a strategy for careful reading and comprehension would come in handy. It can, most importantly, help achieve a good understanding of the science behind things. And for all this, you need to try the SQ3R  technique of active reading.

SQR3: A tool for your communication arsenal

A simple comprehension method, popularly dubbed as SQ3R or SQRRR. Standing for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review is an art of effective reading that can help you better your reading and communication game. Introduced by Francis P. Robinson, an education psychologist, the SQ3R method incorporates an easy five-step reading strategy that encourages active reading. Active reading in turn guides the reader to effortlessly comprehend a reading text. Robinson explained this method in his 1946 classic book named Effective Study. Backed up by science, this technique not just helps you read and understand but also retain the information gained, in mind for the longest time. Given that it is based on cognitive science, it encourages this by transfer of information from short-term memory to long-term term memory. Wondering how? You will come to know this as you go ahead.

 Follow the S to the Q to the 3R

SQ3R can especially be helpful, for SciCommers, to master technical information easily.

S for Survey

This step comes before you dive into the text. It demands you to take five minutes and create an overview of the entire text by quickly skimming through it. Try to take account of the headers, introduction, summary, words in bold and italics, illustrations, and other outstanding features of the text.

Why do so?

Doing so will help you understand the structure of the reading material and give you a general idea about the subject matter. Think of it as priming or pre-learning for your brain for the upcoming information. Additionally, this step serves as the foundation of active reading.

Q for Question

As you skim through the reading material, create a list of questions about the content. Jot it down on a sheet of paper as you go ahead. Convert any headings or subheadings, outstanding words into question, or raise of your own. Ask yourself what information you want from the article like what, why, when, whom, and how of the article. For example, if the heading is “Binary fission”, read it as “What is binary fission?”. Now you are creating a goal for yourself, that, to look out for an answer to this question. Ask yourself why you are reading the text and analyze what you already know about this. What message the author wants to bring in through this text etc.

Why do so?

Raising queries helps in engaging the mind and concentrating on the material. That’s how you will be actively involved in reading. With this, there arises interest, curiosity, and attention as you go on reading.

R1 for Read

Now, you are all set to get into the technical attributes of the text. Read with a purpose in mind because by doing so you get more out of reading. Take your own time to read. Remember at this stage you are actively seeking information. As you move through the text, be on the lookout for the information that answers your questions from the previous step. Having said so, don’t struggle too much looking for the answers. Take frequent breaks to recall what you have just read. Think aloud and analyze the information while reading. Reread anything which is not clear at its first run. Make sure to read difficult paragraphs at a reduced pace.

Why do so?

This step promotes active reading in the reader. As you are hunting for answers, there is two-way traffic of communication between you and the reading material. With each subsequent reading, the meaning will become clearer to you.

R2 for Recite

Once you read the entire text, give yourself a break before moving onto the next step. Now, while looking at your notes, recite loudly (as if you are teaching it to yourself) the key concepts of the text you remember. Run through your question which you formulated in the second step and try to answer them. If you are unable to recall something, re-read the section. You can take your own time while exercising this step.

Why do so?

Reading aloud is known to engage both visual and auditory senses. Hence, it supports easy absorption of knowledge in memory for a longer time, moving the information from short-term to long-term memory. Also, it will deepen the understanding of the material. This step can especially help when you are going for a talk or workshop.

R3 for Review

In this last step of SQR3, try to revise the text, what you have read without looking at it. Just by thinking, review all of the key concepts, headings/subheadings, questions, answers, and notes from the reading material to get a sense of overall consistency. Later, look at your notes and text to find out how well did you recall and try to cover any information that is left behind by looking at the text again. Finish the process by obtaining a mental picture of the whole text.

Why do so?

Doing so helps your brain consolidate the information and store it for a long period. While setting out to convey the information you gained through a write-up or illustration, this step will certainly be helpful in forming an immediate effective trail of thoughts.

You can summarize it as follows:

  • Glance through the text and identify its structure;
  • Create questions and write them down;
  • Look for answers to your questions in the text with alert reading;
  • Recite what you have just read;
  • Reread the text and note in case you missed something.
After going through these steps, I am sure it would be your right-hand job to get good science communication done. In the beginning, it may look like a lot of extra work. But trust me. It’s not! Once you get it into your habit, it saves time by getting the information into long term memory more quickly and productively. Good luck with your next reading!
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