Scan for specific information.
Scanning is a technique you often use when looking up a word in the telephone book or
dictionary. You search for key words or ideas. In most cases, you know what you're looking
for, so you're concentrating on finding a particular answer. Scanning involves moving your
eyes quickly down the page seeking specific words and phrases. Scanning is also used when
you first find a resource to determine whether it will answer your questions. Once you've
scanned the document, you might go back and skim it.
Scanning is a skill that requires that you read quickly while looking for specific
information. To scan a reading text, you should start at the top of the page and then move
your eyes quickly toward the bottom. Generally, scanning is a technique that is helpful
when you are looking for the answer to a known question. This is especially helpful when
taking a test.
First, skim the material as described above. Comprehension comes from familiarity.
Scan the entire reading, then focus on the most interesting or relevant parts to read
in detail. Pay attention to when you can skim and when you need to understand every word.
Write as you read. Take notes and talk back to the text. Explicate (explain in detail) and
mark up the pages. Write down what interests or bores you. Speculate about why.
If you get stuck in the reading, think and write about where you got stuck. Contemplate
why that particular place was difficult and how you might break through the block. Record
and explore your confusion. Confusion is important because it's the first stage in
understanding. When the going gets difficult, and you don't understand the reading, slow
down and reread sections.
Break long assignments into segments. Read 10 pages, then do something else. Later,
read the next 10 pages and so on. Read prefaces and summaries to learn important details
about the book. Look at the table of contents for information about the structure and
movement of ideas. Use the index to look up specific names, places, ideas.
Translate difficult material into your own words. Create an alternative text.
- When scanning, look for the author's use of organizers such as numbers, letters, steps,
or the words, first, second, or next. Look for words that are bold faced, italics, or in a
different font size, style, or color. Sometimes the author will put key ideas in the
- Reading off a computer screen has become a growing concern. Research shows that people
have more difficulty reading off a computer screen than off paper. Although they can read
and comprehend at the same rate as paper, skimming on the computer is much slower than on
Scan before you read. Look at the table of contents, index, topic headers, photo
captions, etc. These will help you determine if,
a) you have a real interest in this reading, and
b) what information you're likely to get from it.
Difference between Skimming, Scanning and Screening
Skimming is when you "browse" online, or glance randomly through a book. It
has great importance in learning and is emphasized as a strategy in speed reading
particularly for exam taking. The purpose of skimming is to get an "overview"
not the specific details of the material. We use it to decide if the book, article or
report is worth our time, and has anything new and worthwhile to tell us. Why waste time
if it is a rehash of stuff we already know?
Scanning originally meant to read in a cursory or hasty way - to glance at. Its origins
are Latin, meaning to climb. Today scanning means to see and reproduce every thing it
sees: an optical scanner is fast but it does not miss anything. An MRI produces an exact
version of what it examines. When we "scan" in speed reading we read each and
every word, punctuation mark and symbol on the page.
Screening is the most inclusive reading and is used only for examinations as a third
perusal of text. It includes Macro, Mini and Micro details that appear in the text. We use
it to imprint details for quick retrieval when examined.
Don't build on words to comprehend ideas, skim through words and sentences and let the
Speed reading tips
Psychology of speed reading