Ads ●●●

Reading skills: Employing skimming and scanning

Tochi Juliet
By Tochi Juliet
A young man employing skimming and scanning while reading


Skimming and scanning are reading techniques that involve a quick use of eye movement to search for keywords 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 techniques that involve reading quickly through a text to find specific facts in the text.

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

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

Skim and scan abilities require effective reading skills because of what readers are tasked with accomplishing. 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 save 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 partner of reading.

It is instrumental as a preview to a 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 is required to 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 a first and last paragraph. It is also helpful to pay attention to the text's organisation when looking for a particular word or phrase.

In the scanning method, readers are required to look for a specific word or sentence fro example, someone looking for a particular 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 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.

Reading and writing goes hand in hand, image shows a reader with tab and jotting notes

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 main ideas of the book are divided.
  2. In Chapter in the book, check the main headings to understand more about the book. 
  3. Make sure that you finish the introductory paragraph and the first and last sentence of each paragraph. 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 content of a text as you do not need them. If you think you come across a piece of important information, make sure you stop and read 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 is required to 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 

Note that Good skimmers do not skim everything at the same rate or give equal attention to everything.

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. When your eye catches one of your keywords, read the surrounding material carefully.
  5. Use your fingers when scanning, as it will help you in locating specific information.

Scanning looking for a particular point, can involve text highlighting

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 full course to enable them to master the art of speed reading and further 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 the most valuable for learners.

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

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

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

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

Hot Links