Skimming and Scanning [With All Points]

skimming and scanning
Written by Waseem Raza


It is a technique in fast reading that helps us find the general idea or gist of a text or a book. We do skim in our daily life without any conscious effort when we read newspaper articles, book reviews and research papers. Skimming, in literal sense, means the removing of a thin layer that covers the top of a liquid like boiled milk. The way we skim milk to get cream from its top, similarly we skim a text to get the gist of it. It is only touching the top without putting your whole hands into it.

While skimming, your eyes should move quickly and you focus on the relevant we focus on the beginning and words and sentences and pieces of information. Often, . ending paragraphs and on the first sentences of each paragrap

Why do we skim?

We skim obviously to save our time and labour. For a quick understanding of the text, skimming is used as technique. We Use skimming:

  • To overview our textbooks
  • To review for a test
  • To know what kind of a book it is?
  • Get the main idea of a longer text
  • Quickly remember the main idea of a previous reading
  • Decide if the text is important or interesting for you to read

Once you have got an idea about the relevance of the text, you decide to read it right now or later otherwise you reject it as irrelevant. It will become clear whether it is helpful for your studies or not. If it is helpful then keep it otherwise discard it.

When do we skim?

  • Before we read in detail. That is, we decide after skimming whether we need to go for a thorough reading of this book or not.
  • When we have a lot to read and do not have very much time.
  • To do a research

How do we skim?

To skim, prepare yourself AO move rapidly through the pages. You will not read every word; you will pay special attention to headings, bold words and italics, indented. bulleted and numbered lists. You will be alert for key words and phrases, the names of people and places, dates, nouns, and unfamiliar words. In general, follow these steps:

  • Read the table of contents or chapters overview to learn the main divisions of ideas.
  • Glance through the main headings in each chapter just to see a word or two. Read the headings ofCharts and tables.
  • Read the entire introductory paragraph and then the first and last sentence only of each following paragraph. For each paragraph, read only the first few words of each sentence or to locate the main idea.
  • Stop and quickly read the sentences containing keywords indicated in boldface or italics.
  • When you think you have found something significant, stop to read the entire sentence to make sure. Then go on the same way. Resist the temptation to stop to read details you don’t need.
  • Read chapter summaries when provided.

If you cannot complete all the steps above, compromise: read only the chapter overviews and summaries or the summaries and all the boldfaced keywords. When you skim, you take a calculated risk that you may miss something. For instance, the main ideas of paragraphs are not always found in the first or last sentences. Ideas you miss you may pick up in a chapter overview or summary.

Good skimmers do not skim everything at the same rate or give equal attention everything. While skimming is always faster than your normal reading speed, you should slow down in the following situations:

  • When you skim introductory and concluding paragraphs
  • When you skim topic sentences
  • When you find an unfamiliar word
  • When the material is very complicated


The term scanning is very well Icnoirn to the young generation which is well-connected with computer. The computer scans files for specific targets. Scanning when applied to reading means another useful technique for speeding up the process. In scanning, you look only for a specific fact or piece of information without reading everything. You scan when you look for your favorite show in the TV Channel’s Programme list, for your friend’s phone number in a telephone directory, and for the sports news in the newspaper. For scanning to be successful, you need to understand how your material is structured as well as comprehend what you read so you can locate the specific information you need.

Scanning also allows you to find details and other information in a hurry.

How to Scan?

Because you already scan different types of material in your daily life, learning more details about scanning will be easy. Establishing your purpose, locating the appropriate material, and knowing how the information is structured before you start scanning is essential.

The material you scan is typically arranged in the following ways: alphabetically, M. chronologically, non-alphabetically, by category, or textually. Apart from these clues, keep in view the following steps:

  • State the specific information you are looking for. 
  • Try to anticipate how the answer will appear and what clues you might use to help you locate the answer. For example, if you were looking for a certain date, you would quickly read the paragraph looking only for numbers.
  • Use headings and any other aids that will help you identify which sections might contain the information you are looking for.
  • Selectively read and skip through sections of the passage.

Use Your Hands When Scanning

Learning to use your hands while scanning is very helpful in locating specific information. Do you use your hands to locate a word in a dictionary, to find a meeting time on your calendar, to read a train or bus schedule? Using your hand or finger is extremely helpful in focusing your attention and keeping your place while scanning a column of material. 

When to Scan?

You scan when your aim is to find a specific piece of information. if you are doing research for an oral presentation, you can scan the index of books, websites, and reference materials. You discover whether they contain any information you want and the pages where the information can be found.
In the past, you probably scanned without knowing you were doing it. Now with the information provided in this section, you can use scanning more intentionally and frequently. The more you practice, the more effective scanning will become. Finally, the most important benefit of scanning is its ability to help you become a more flexible reader. Scanning adds another high gear to your reading. If you have become habitual of reading every word and become uncomfortable leaving some words out, you need to give yourself permission to overlook some words by skimming, scanning. and skipping material according to your reading purpose. In academic contexts, you will have much to read and you will need to use various reading skills to help you read more quickly. Scanning is one such skill.

When scanning, you will be looking for keywords or phrases. These will be especially easy to find if they are names because they will begin with a capital letter, or numbers/dates. Once you have decided on the area of text to scan, you should run your eyes down the page, in a zigzag pattern, to take in as much of the text as possible. This approach makes scanning seem much more random than other speed-reading skills such as skimming and surveying. It is also a good idea to use your linger as you move down or up the page, to focus your attention and keep track of where you are. Read more

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