DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

SQ3R, Where Have You Been All My Life?

Written by: on October 18, 2018

I graduated from high school over 40 years ago.  I spent around 18 years taking college and graduate level courses.  And now I am just reading books on How to Study correctly?  I guess I should be a bit angry that no one told me there was a secret to all of this book learning.  I guess I am better off for trying to cram all of this knowledge in my brain, over the years.  Sure, I heard about “Cliffs Notes” in college, but the infamous “Cliffs Notes” was deemed as cheating.  Somehow, the game changed without me noticing or being informed.

As it turns out, Cliff Notes was named after a person, Clifton Hillegass, who was a voracious reader, reading five books a week up until his death at the age of 83 (Wells 2016).  Cliff did not like the idea of his books being thought of as “cheater books”, but always felt his books were to be used as supplemental aids, making sure the student was getting the most out of what he or she was reading (Wells 2016).

I was a science major, so I had no time to read all the novels others were killing themselves over, consequently, I tried to use “Cliffs Notes”.  I never found them to be very helpful, since most of the professors themselves were aware of these supplemental aids, and found a way around them.  Several universities went so far as to ban “Cliffs Notes” from their campus bookstores in a symbolic move even though students were smart enough to purchase the books from other sources (Wells 2016).

Learn How to Study, by Derek Rowntree is another supplemental aid that helps the student develop techniques that aid in the studying of subjects by selectively focusing on what is important in the books.  One of the methods I enjoyed was the SQ3R, method.  I like this method primarily because it resembles a mathematical formula of sorts, but also because it is somewhat easy to remember.  The first step, Survey, fits with the ideas of skimming that we learned in other books such as How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, by Pierre Bayard.  The second step, which is Question, or ask yourself questions about what you have read, is something I only did in my head but not in an intentional and active way.  This helps to figure out why the author is mentioning these methods and what ideas are really being conveyed. The 3 R’s of Reading, Recall, and Review, help in actively reading and critically thinking about the book that is being read (Rowntree 2016, Kindle Loc. 2307).  I think of this method as like eating a piece of bone fish where one is careful to eat the best parts of the fish while avoiding the bones.

I am hoping that I can change my old habits of trying to cram everything into my brain and then falling out from exhaustion.  My current age, (which any good math student could figure out), does not allow for much room left in the brain.  However, I am hoping to make good use of the many techniques learned in all of the books we have read or skimmed over the last few weeks.

I do wonder how I got by without all of these study aids that everyone else seemed to know about.  However, as noted above, Clifton Hillegass read five books a week up until his death and obviously, had a love for information. I think he did a lot of good with all of the knowledge he gained from his healthy appetite for reading.  I am encouraged now to read more, by selectively focusing on what is important, surveying books, looking for important landmarks, questioning what the writer is saying, reading, recalling and reviewing until I am able to produce something of value that will also contribute to the literature of today’s society.


Bayard, Pierre. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. Bloomsbury, 2007.

Rowntree, Derek. Learn How to Study: Developing the study skills and approaches to learning that will help you succeed in university. : Derek Rowntree, 2016.

Wells, Jeff. “15 Studious Facts About CliffsNotes.” Mental Floss. 12 15, 2016. (accessed October 18, 2018).

About the Author


Mary Mims

I am a licensed and ordained Baptist minister and have worked with the children and youth for the last seven years. I have resided in the Washington, DC area for the last 30 years, but I am originally from Michigan. I am also bi-vocational and work at the US Patent and Trademark Office in the Scientific Library.

6 responses to “SQ3R, Where Have You Been All My Life?”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    I am loving SQ3R too Mary. Really doing my best to apply it to all my research I have been doing this week too. You beautifully describe this as like eating bone fish. I will think about that image while I spend hours hitting the books and taking notes!

  2. mm John Muhanji says:

    Thank you, Mary, for speaking your thoughts on this book. I was equally in the same situation wondering where has this book been all these years I have been reading and struggling while there is one that is clearly guiding how to plan and organize your study. You have spoken what most of us have experienced with the book especially with the SQ3R. I am happy the Jason and the team felt it worth giving us to read at this initial stage.

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Don’t sell yourself short, I bet there are plenty more brain cells available for learning and studying. I believe I graduated from high school even earlier than you and I went 35 years between finishing my first masters and starting my second. Having said that, I am convinced we can all still learn new content and new processes. I find Adler, Bayard, and Rowntree very process oriented, “learning how to learn.” Somehow in my structural reading of Rowntree, I missed SQ3R (how is that even possible?) Thanks so much for sharing your learning along with your wealth of experience. I have no doubt that your doctoral research and dissertation will not only be valuable but invaluable to the cause of his kingdom. Blessings, H

    • mm Mary Mims says:

      Harry, the fact that you missed SQ3R is what I am having difficulty with trying to read all of these books without having enough time. They have valuable information in these books, and I feel I need to read all of this to not read the other stuff that’s unnecessary! What a quandary! I wish I would have read these books this summer, to get the methods under my belt. Oh well, I think I will have to do some re-reading to get these methods down.

  4. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Hi Mary. Thanks for sharing about the SQ3R. I found that section informative as well. But since I’m not so much a science person and am instead more of a “feeling focused peep,” (working as a Counselor does that to a person), I focused more on Rowntree’s relationship scenario of learning. But I really appreciated your insight into the facts and the 3 R’s of Rowntree’s teaching. Thanks for the insight.

  5. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thanks, Mary. I get a sense that several of us are in the same situation. It is frustrating to be our age and just learn these types of helps, but I like to think we have stretched our minds by all the information we have crammed in there over the years so now there is plenty of space for the important things!

    I too appreciated the SQ3R. Simple acronyms that help me remember process is always beneficial and I will be putting this into practice with all the research. I can see where it will help me get out of the details and back up more to see the big picture.

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