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The THIEVES Study Method: Quickly getting what you need

Facing an intimidating text? Try the THIEVES method to quickly extract the most important information – read our guide to this handy approach to reading.

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The bottom line
  • The THIEVES method is an an advanced form of “previewing” texts – extracting the most important parts.
  • The method is an excellent tool for improving reading comprehension of informational texts
  • It can be somewhat time consuming and difficult to apply to texts on topics that are completely new to a learner.

Before diving into a study session, have you ever taken a moment to gauge the length of the text or the number of pages you need to read? The feeling of relief if it’s short or the inward groan if it’s quite long is all too familiar. This simple act is called previewing, and it can significantly enhance your study experience and time management.

But did you know that another similar but better method exists? It’s called the THIEVES method, and it comes with a multitude of new benefits. When you practice this approach, you essentially ‘steal’ information from specific parts of the text, empowering your understanding and retention of the material.

This method is advocated widely for children, especially when it comes to teaching reading. But don’t think that it can’t be used by older learners. The THIEVES study method has been shown to be effective for students of all ages and levels of reading ability, and we will be covering it extensively in this article.

The THIEVES Method

What is the THIEVES Method?

At its core, the THIEVES method is a reading strategy designed to guide learners in identifying vital points of interest within a text. By having learners focus on specific sections of the text and asking themselves targeted questions, they can deepen their understanding of the content. The THIEVES method derives its name from the acronym representing its steps: Title, Heading, Introduction, Every first sentence, Visual/Vocabulary, End of the text, and Summary.

This method was created by Donalyn Miller, a multi-award-winning teacher and author, during the early 2000s. She developed it to help children improve their reading ability and comprehension.

Similarly, the SQ3R method shares common principles with THIEVES. Both are systematic approaches to reading comprehension, encouraging active engagement with the text and promoting deeper comprehension and better retention of information. These methods are valuable tools for students and readers of all ages, helping them navigate texts and gain a better understanding of the content.

Benefits and advantages of the THIEVES method

Fortunately, there has been plenty of research testing how good the THIEVES method is. The following are the reasons why the THIEVES method is effective:

  • According to this study, the THIEVES method helps learners to be more engaged and focused in the learning process, especially when it comes to improving reading comprehension.
  • It is also said to improve vocabulary and understanding of new words.
  • This study also concludes that the THIEVES method can help learners overcome reading problems, especially in expository texts.
  • The method is very easy and can serve as a study guide for students who lack a successful method of study.
  • Students of all ages can use this method and it is said to be equally effective no matter the age and level.
  • If you are a teacher, usage of the THIEVES method can help you monitor your student’s comprehension.
  • The method is flexible and can be adapted to suit an individual learner’s needs.

Limits and disadvantages of the THIEVES method

The THIEVES method is a simple and effective way to improve reading comprehension, but it is not without its disadvantages.

Here are some potential disadvantages of the THIEVES method:

  • It is time-consuming. The method requires students to preview the text, ask questions, take notes, and summarize the text. This can take a lot of time, especially for longer texts.
  • It can be difficult to identify the most important information. The method relies on students to identify the most important information in the text. This can be difficult for some students, especially those who are not familiar with the topic of the text.
  • The THIEVES method is hard to apply to certain types of text. The method is best suited for informational text but not so much for narrative texts, poetic texts, argumentative texts, and multiple other types of texts.

Using the THIEVES Method

The acronym of THIEVES is essentially the steps that you would do in this method:

  1. Title
  2. Headings
  3. Introduction
  4. Every first sentence
  5. Visuals and vocabulary
  6. Ending
  7. Summary


Take a look at the title and think about what might be included in the text. You can also draw upon your background knowledge and think about what you already know about the topic.

For example, if you see that the title of the text is “The Science of Flight,” it may imply that the text will cover the intricacies of flight, and it is likely that topics such as aerodynamics, lift, drag, and many others related to flight will be included.


Look at the headings and think of questions related to them. Headings can help you identify the main point of a text. You can also think of how to turn the headings into a question that is likely to be answered in the text.

For example, if the heading of a paragraph is “History of Planes,” you might ask yourself questions like “When were airplanes first invented?” or “Who made the first airplane?”


Read the introductory paragraph and think of what is most important. The introduction usually gives you an outline and overview of the text and highlights much of the important information.

Every first sentence

Read the first sentence of each paragraph. The first sentence of each paragraph can often give you a good idea of what the paragraph will be about.

Visuals and vocabulary

Look at images, graphics, and other visuals. What do they illustrate? Also, look for important vocabulary words and define them in the text.

Visuals and vocabulary can help you to understand the text. Photos, graphs, and other visuals can help you to visualize the information being conveyed in the text. For example, if a text includes a diagram depicting the structure of a modern airplane, you might have a better understanding of the components of an airplane. Additionally, identifying the definition of vocabulary words can also improve your comprehension of a text.


Read the last paragraph and think about what is most important. The concluding paragraph often gives you key highlights and the main ideas discussed within the text. It can also serve as a summary that emphasizes the most important information.


Combine all of the previous components of the THIEVES method and make a summary of the text.


The THIEVES method is an excellent studying tool that offers plenty of benefits and little downsides. By using the THIEVES method, you can enhance your comprehension of a text and tackle questions related to it with great ease. I would highly recommend its use for learners in their study.

If you find yourselves not liking this method for some reason, there are plenty of other study methods out there. Try using as many study techniques as you can and decide the best one for you.

Change this spreadsheet as needed. You might, for example, want to classify your tasks by type or provide additional information about the interruptions.