What is Scanning – Scanning Definition – Explanation

Written by Waseem Raza

What is Scanning?

Scanning means reading a text for a specific piece of information. Scanning refers to the ability to locate specific information or facts as quickly as possible. Also Check What Is Skimming.

It is faster than skimming. In skimming, we find out the gist but here we look for one bit of information. When scanning, we run our eyes rapidly down the page, searching for particular information.

How to Scan?

In this type of reading, we should keep our eyes on headings, bold words, capital letters for a name, and numbers for dates. While trying to look for the meaning of a word in a dictionary or looking for a telephone number in the telephone directory, timings of trains and airplanes on a timetable, we scan and try to look for specific information. To do this, we do not have to read carefully the whole dictionary, telephone directory and time-table. We scan (examine hastily) the page or pages until our eye discovers the required information we are looking for. We scan a text for specific information, specified data recorded in non-verbal form e.g. diagrams, graphs, etc. initial impression also occurs when we go through a text very quickly to get an overall or pression whether the text is interesting or suitable for a given purpose.

Procedure for Scanning / Steps in Scanning

Scanning is an important rapid reading technique, which provides better comprehension while reading a text.

1. Keep in your mind only the specific information to be located.

2. Decide which clues will help to find the required information. The clues which help the reader to find the specific information may be a word or words, punctuation, alphabetical order, chronological order, numbers etc.


3. Move your eyes as quickly as possible down the page to find the clues.

4. Read the section containing the clues to get the information:

Scanning may serve several purposes which include looking for:

(a) a specific point or fact in a text,

(b) relevant graphic details,

(c) a formulae in a text,

(d) a word in a dictionary,

(e) train or television schedules,

(f) any reference or bibliographical listings,

(g) examination results, or

(h) any notes / questions / remarks at the end of the text.

How to Increase Proficiency at Scanning

We may know how to scan a newspaper or a dictionary but may do it slowly with less accuracy. What is important to increase scanning speed with accuracy. The following suggestions will help increase proficiency at scanning.

1- Know What You Want to Find:

In order to scan any reading material, the reader needs to know what he wants to find. If he does not know what he is looking for, he will not be able to scan well. So the purpose of scanning should be determined and the reader should not be confused about the information that he requires.

2- Do not Read Everything:

As the reader knows what he is looking for before he begins to read, he should not read everything. He should concentrate on the information that he needs with his eyes only on the particular word, phrase, and word group or thought unit that he is looking for. The attempt should be to perceive word groups and thought units quickly.


3- Use Guides and Aids:

Every reading material contains certain guides and aids, which should be used to find what the reader wants.

4- Know the Organisation of the Material to be Read

The reader needs to know the organisation of the reading material to scan it with speed and accuracy. Practise different kinds of reading materials, such as newspaper listings, dictionaries, telephones directories, and analyse the way information is structured in these materials.

5- Concentrate While Scanning:

The reader needs to concentrate while scanning a reading material. He must have the urge to read and scan the material. This will improve his visual perception and help him identify the required information quickly. Skimming and Scanning are fast readino skills which can be used on their own or in combination with each other because they help us in.

(a) Gaining an overview of the material. (Skimming)

(b) Separate relevant from irrelevant material. (Skimming and Scanning)

(c) Locate specific information.

(d) Identify the central theme or idea (Scanning) (Skimming)

Use Scanning to research, review and find information.

The easiest of scanning exercises are those that require the students to scan for a single word, or a specific fact. For example:

1. Look at page 00 and find out when Shakespeare died?

2. How many times does the word “this” occur on the page?

3. (Using a page from an index) On what page is the topic of evolution mentioned?

4. (Using a page from a telephone directory) What is the telephone number of Prof. G.M. Shahid?

5. (Using an article, possibly one with subtitles) Does this article deal with ? Where?

6. Using a train or aeroplane time-table) What is the arrival / departure time of a particular train or flight?


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