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Higher Education Insight: How Graduate Students Can Become Better Readers

Learn alongside Walden University master’s degree students as they discover how a simple formula can increase comprehension and retention.

As a working professional who has accrued valuable life and job experience, you know exactly what you want and are ready to earn a degree that will enhance your career. After choosing an accredited university for your online education, you’ve selected a master’s degree program that is the perfect fit for your aspirations and goals.

Regardless of your field of study, some graduate school experiences are universal. There will be a lot of reading and writing throughout the program. That’s why Walden University, known for its student support, offers online courses that help students at the master’s and doctoral degree level develop keen reading and writing skills for postsecondary education. In the course Graduate Writing I, students practice core concepts like critical reading, which is the starting point for scholarly writing.

Higher Education Insight: How Graduate Students Can Become Better Readers

“Reading Retention and Comprehension,” a required reading assignment, teaches students a novel approach to becoming a better reader. Learn about this five-step process in this excerpt: 1


The SQ3R technique is an active and process-based approach to reading. The five steps are survey, question, read, recite, and review.


Start off by getting a preview of what you need to read. Sometimes called pre-reading, this step should include a quick scan of the title, abstract, table of contents (if it is a longer work), section headings, visuals, and references. As you survey these components of the text, consider what stands out to you. Take some initial notes on your observations.


Actively reading involves being curious. Develop questions based on what you see during the Survey step. The questions should connect the content to your prior knowledge and—importantly—keep you reading even if the topic is not of interest. What do you anticipate learning from the material? What question might motivate you to keep reading? If the reading is part of coursework, consider the weekly theme and assignment when developing your questions. Some example questions might be:

  • For a research article: What were the results of the study? How was it conducted?
  • Why did the author write this? (In other words: What is the underlying problem being explored?)
  • What is the importance of this topic to X population?
  • For a reading with two topics in the title: How is topic A related to topic B?
  • For a reading that is in a sequence of other readings: If I understand that X is true from other sources I have read, how does this information support, contradict, or complicate that understanding?
  • If you see terminology you do not know: What is the meaning of X?


Read through the material. While doing so, search for answers to the questions you have posed. Those answers become your notes. Through this approach, you have essentially made reading into a game.

  • You might find that new questions come up as you read. Jot those down too, and develop answers to the new questions as you continue.
  • You might also find that some of your questions do not get answered. Perhaps when you surveyed, you thought the material would be about one topic, but it was really about another.


Summarize the material in your own words and say that summary out loud. Imagine an appropriate audience (such as a friend or a colleague) when performing this step. The Recite step provides three important benefits:

  • Summarizing allows you to check your understanding.
  • Verbalizing the summary helps to store it in your memory.
  • Using your own words supports academic integrity.
  • If you are reading a longer work, you could do the Recite step at the end of each section or chapter. If the reading is shorter, you could just Recite once.
  • In addition to verbalizing the summary, write it down in your notes. This will be helpful when you move on to the Review step next. Note: You may choose to type your notes in a separate document, write them down longhand, or use electronic functions to comment directly on the e-Book or article.

Review (and Reflect!).

  • Skim over your notes to review what you have learned from the reading. Have you developed a clear and concise summary? Have you answered all of your questions? If not (or if new questions arose), do you need to seek out additional readings to find answers?
  • As part of your review, reflect on the information. How does it connect to your personal life or profession? To your field of study? To the paper or other writing project you are working on? Is the information useful?

How Can I Learn More About Master’s Degree Programs?

Graduate Writing I lays the foundation for writing success as you pursue the MS degree program that matches your skills and interests. Walden University offers more than 30 online master’s degree programs spanning a diverse range of career options. With an RN to MSN online, you can advance into the growing fields of nursing informatics or public health nursing. Wherever your talents take you, you’ll have Walden’s world-class support along the way. Write your way to success in the master’s degree program that sparks your passion and ignites your desire for excellence.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering master’s degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

1Walden Curriculum Source:

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,