Before speed reading
How many times have you promised yourself
to read more and never found the time?
If only you could do it quickly and more efficiently.
Effective and efficient readers learn to use many styles of reading
for different purposes. Skimming, scanning, and critical reading are different styles of
reading and information processing. Before reading, you need a sense of your own purpose
for reading. Are you looking for background information on a topic you know a
little bit about already? Are you looking for specific details and facts that you
can marshal in support of an argument? Are you trying to see how an author approaches her
Knowing purpose in reading helps focus attention on relevant aspects of the text. Take
a moment to reflect and clarify what your goal really is in the reading youíre about to
Before reading, you can take steps to familiarize yourself with the background
of the text, and gain a useful overview of its content and structure. Seek
information about the context of the reading, its purpose, and its general content. Take a
look for an abstract or an authorís or editorís note that may precede the article
itself, and read any background information that is available to you about the author, the
occasion of the writing, and its intended audience.
Looking at the title and noting general ideas that are tipped off by these cues.
Continue flipping pages quickly and scanning paragraphs, getting the gist of what material
the text covers and how that material is ordered. After looking over the text as a whole,
read through the introductory paragraph or section, recognizing that many authors will
provide an overview of their message as well as an explicit statement of their thesis or
main point in the opening portion of the text. Taking the background information, the
messages conveyed by the title, note or abstract, and the information from the opening
paragraph or section into account, you should be able to proceed with a good hunch of the
In order to become aware of your reading situation ask yourself questions like:
- What do I want / need to find out / learn?
- In which context do I want / need this?
- Which texts could suit these needs?
- What made me choose this text?
- How deeply an understanding of the text do I need?
- How much time have I got?
- How do I want to proceed? ..
Consider your purpose.
- Are you looking for information, main ideas, complete comprehension, or detailed
- How will you use this text?
- Get an overview of the context, purpose, and content of the reading.
- What does the title mean?
- What can you discover about the "when," "where," and "for
whom" of the article?
- What does background or summary information provided by the author or editor predict the
text will do?
- What chapter or unit does the text fit into?
- Scan the text.
- Does there seem to be a clear introduction and conclusion? Where?
- Are the body sections marked? What does each seem to be about? What claims does the
author make at the beginnings and endings of sections?
- Are there key words that are repeated or put in bold or italics?
- What kinds of development and detail do you notice? Does the text include statistics,
tables, and pictures or is it primarily prose? Do names of authors or characters get
Look for specific words
- Scan a section for key words.
- Skim to the words that provide meaning
Become an impatient reader
- Speed readers are impatient readers
- They read with a purpose.
- They want to find answers.
- They make predictions and guess the answers.
But some students say, "What if I think ahead while I am reading but my
predictions are wrong?"
Predicting is useful because all your concentration is focused on the reading and
making senses of it.
In order to make meaning, while reading speed you can use connecting words. Sign words
such as and, more over, also, furthermore tell you that there will be more of the same,
while contrast words such as but, although, rather tell you that the message will now go
in another direction.
You might need to change your predictions.
Speed readers predict what the text is likely to tell them next, but they are not upset
if a prediction is wrong, they quickly adjust their expectations.
Different speeds for different material
You do not need to read every word to understand a text, however some texts will
require careful reading, so you need to know when to adjust your reading speed. Skim a
text, then decide if a slower reading approach is necessary.
In order to avoid reading every word you must increase the rate your eyes move across
Choose easy material for practice.
Sweep your eyes faster across the page than youíve ever done before.
Do not mouth the words; do not even mentally say them.
Start with short practice periods, e.g. 3 minutes.