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Survey the text

Surveying is a pre-reading activity. If you survey something, you look at the whole of it. Surveying a text means reading to obtain a general idea of its contents, and predicting what will come next and how the text will develop. To get a general idea, you do not read everything. You skim; you read quickly to find out about the topic, the main ideas, and the general organisation of the text.

What do you skim?

More specifically, look at:

  • the title
  • any headings and sub-headings                                                                                                 
  • any leading questions at the start or end of a chapter or section
  • all visuals and their captions
  • the first paragraph
  • the last paragraph (or summary, if there is one)
  • the first and last sentences of paragraphs

Then, think about what you already know about the topic and what you expect to find when you begin reading.  After you have surveyed the text, you should generally know what it is about and how it is organised.

SQ4R in action

The purpose of the SQ4R in action figures is to demonstrate how the method works. The text The War on Drugs used in all the figures is not very clear, but concentrate on the process. However, click on this link to the text if you wish to read it.

Below is an example of Survey the text.

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