Reading skills: Employing skimming and scanning

Have you been thinking about which books to select from your bulks of books on your desk, here are what to do? Employ Skimming and Scanning for best effects.

A young man employing skimming and scanning while reading


Skimming and scanning are reading techniques that involve quick eye movement to search for keywords in text such as books, journals, and others for different purposes.

Skimming is reading rapidly to get a general overview of the material. Scanning is a reading technique that involves reading quickly through a text to find specific facts.

A person scanning is required to look for specific information and its keywords in the text.

Skimming can save you hours of laborious tasks when it comes to reading. However, it is not always the most appropriate way to read.

Skim and scan abilities require effective reading skills because of the reader's aim. To engage in both, the reader must be fluent.

Non-fluent readers will not accomplish this task effectively because they typically struggle with comprehension on some level and cannot read at speeds fast enough to determine essential versus nonessential information.

Needs for Skimming and Scanning

There are several reasons why we skim and scan. These include:

To save time

Using the skimming reading technique saves lots of time for the reader, reducing the tedious work of reading a whole text. Even though skimming techniques save time, it is not the appropriate reading partner.

It is instrumental as a preview to more detailed reading or when reviewing a selection massive in content.

Quick content review

Skimming is essential when a reader wants to get the idea or content of a particular text. 

In skimming, the reader must ignore the long stories in a book and search for the book's main content or idea. The content of a text is mainly found in each first sentence of the first and last paragraph.

It is also helpful to pay attention to the text's organisation when looking for a particular word or sentence. In the scanning method, readers must look for a specific word or sentence, for example, someone looking for a phone number in a telephone book.

Increase reading speed

Reading every word can limit our reading skills. Many situations of spending long hours of laborious reading can't do anything well.

Making the best choices

In a situation whereby one has to read multiple choices to choose one answer quickly, employing skimming and scanning will help one make the best choice and choose the correct answer as it will enable one to glance through the options in a short time.

How to Skim

Anyone who plans to use the skimming method should be ready to use a quick eye movement. The reader must not read every word in the text but only pay special attention to typographical cues: headings, boldface and italic types, indenting, bulleted, and numbered lists.

You are required to move your eyes quickly down a page and from side to side in the text.

Examine an article before reading it, pick the part that requires your attention and skip the unnecessary parts. 

  1. Check the book's table of contents to check how the book's main ideas are divided.
  2. In the chapter in the book, check the main headings to understand more about the book. 
  3. Ensure that you finish the introductory paragraph and each paragraph's first and last sentence. In each paragraph of the text, read through the first few words of each sentence to locate the book's content. 
  4. Make sure you keep track of the words or sentences written in bold or italics.
  5. A reader must resist reading much invalid text content as you do not need it. If you think you come across a piece of important information, make sure you stop and read it thoroughly to get the information.
  6. Read chapter summaries when provided.

A good skimmer does not use equal eye movement speed at the same time when skimming through a text.

 Even though a skimmer must be quick when skimming, they are meant to slow down in the following situation.

  • In the introductory and concluding paragraphs
  • When skimming a topic, sentences
  • Coming across an unfamiliar word
  • When the material is very

How to Scan

If you want to scan any text, you are meant to establish your motive and know what you are looking for, locate the appropriate material to check how the information is structured before you scan.

To scan, you must know the following:

  1. What you are searching for in a text. Decide on the keywords you have to look for and focus on them.
  2. You have to look for only one keyword at a time.
  3. Let your eyes float rapidly down the page until you find the word or phrase you want.
  4. Read the surrounding material carefully when your eye catches one of your keywords.
  5. Use your fingers when scanning, as it will help you locate specific information.

Skimming and Scanning at the Tertiary level

Several universities have adopted skimming and scanning as a course. This skill's essentiality has made many school authorities take it as a complete course to master the art of speed reading and save time.

Students face the challenge of reading many texts at the tertiary level, such as website pages, textbooks, journal articles, novels textbooks, manuals, magazines, and newspapers. 

Mastering skimming and scanning skills are of enormous benefit.

Skimming and scanning will be one of the courses required for first-year students as a general course (GS).

It doesn't depend on the department or field of study as it is required that all students master this skill.

Brown (1994) talks about developing and using different reading strategies for efficient comprehension; he highlights skimming and scanning as valuable for learners.

For Ding, skimming and scanning are essential for doing well in general and Internet reading studies in college English tests.

Cheng (1996) says that skimming and efficient reading for main ideas are essential for learners' study skills in the EAP context.

In conclusion, scanning is a technique that requires concentration and can be surprisingly tiring. You may have to practise not allowing your attention to wander.

To finally master skimming and scanning techniques, readers are to speed your time practising again and again.