The Topic:
Skimming and Scanning

Easier - There are different styles of reading for different situations. The technique you choose will depend on the purpose for reading. For example, you might be reading for enjoyment, information, or to complete a task. If you are exploring or reviewing, you might skim a document. If you're searching for information, you might scan for a particular word. To get detailed information, you might use a technique such as SQ4R. You need to adjust your reading speed and technique depending on your purpose.
Many people consider skimming and scanning search techniques rather than reading strategies. However when reading large volumes of information, they may be more practical than reading. For example, you might be searching for specific information, looking for clues, or reviewing information.
Harder - Web pages, novels, textbooks, manuals, magazines, newspapers, and mail are just a few of the things that people read every day. 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.
Skimming is used to quickly identify the main ideas of a text. When you read the newspaper, you're probably not reading it word-by-word, instead you're scanning the text. Skimming is done at a speed three to four times faster than normal reading. People often skim when they have lots of material to read in a limited amount of time. Use skimming when you want to see if an article may be of interest in your research.
There are many strategies that can be used when skimming. Some people read the first and last paragraphs using headings, summarizes and other organizers as they move down the page or screen. You might read the title, subtitles, subheading, and illustrations. Consider reading the first sentence of each paragraph. This technique is useful when you're seeking specific information rather than reading for comprehension. Skimming works well to find dates, names, and places. It might be used to review graphs, tables, and charts.
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.
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 margin.
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 paper.
Fast Reading Style
This website provides an overview of fast reading techniques including scanning, key words spotting, and skimming.
Other Reading Techniques Websites:
Reading and Understanding Texts
Reading Techniques
Seven Steps to Effective Reading
This page discusses different types of reading (skimming, scanning, reading in-depth), deciding what to read, getting ready to read, SQ3R, taking notes from reading, problems with reading, and continuing to improve your reading.
Other Sites on Effective and Efficient Reading:
Reading Effectively
Reading Efficiently
Super Reading
This page provides an overview of reading techniques including reading for speed, skimming, and grouping words. You can even take a short online quiz.
Using reading strategies to read more quickly and effectively
This article discusses effective use of reading strategies including active reading and reading particular types of texts.
Other Websites to Improve Reading Speed:
Rapid Reading
Reading Fast
Speed Reading
Using the websites, complete the following activities:
Check Your Reading Speed. Try a Reading Speed Check and Speed Reading Online Test. You can check for general reading, study reading, and even interpret your own reading speed.
Test Your Skills. Try a Skimming Exercise and a Scanning Exercise.
Analyze Your Reading. Read the article How Not to Read the News Paper. What kind of reader are you?
Be a Super Reader. Read the page Super Reading, then take the online quiz.
Build a Bookmark. Create a bookmark for skimming or scanning with reminders about how to skim or scan.
Skim Across Subjects. Pick a subject area. Use the Improving Your Reading In All Subjects to find out how to improve reading in this area. Create a poster showing techniques to help reading in this subject.
Practice Skimming and Scanning. Go Amyby's Education Resources and choose some online text to practice you skimming and scanning skills. Try some practice websites.
Complete a WebQuest or an Internet Treasure Hunt. Many webquests can be used to practice skimming and scanning skills. Internet Treasure Hunts are also good practice. Use the Filamentality and WebQuest page website to search for projects in your subject area. You can even create your own online project.
Additional Websites About Skimming and Scanning
Critical Reading Techniques
This page provides ideas for increasing your critical reading skills. It discusses previewing, reading, and reviewing techniques.
How Do You Become a Better Reader?
This page provides advice on becoming a better reading. It outlines specific techniques and ideas.
Improving Your Reading In All Subjects
This page provides an overview of the different types of writing. Then, it discusses ideas for how to improve reading in all subject areas including science, math, history, geography, literature, and poetry.
Internet Know How - Speeding E-Reading
This article explore issues in reading off the screen. It examines a series of factors in designing web pages for the reading on the computer screen.
Other Sites on Writing for Online Reading:
Reading on the Web
Writing for the Web
Use typograph and layout for skimming
Screen Reading Problems
Why People Scan on the Web
Preparing to Read
This page focuses on techniques for active reading using SQ3R. It includes sections on general beginning questions, setting a purpose by surveying a chapter, guiding yourself through the reading, making notes, highlighting, and summarizing, and after the reading is done.
Other Pages on Improving Reading Skills:
Improving Reading Skills
The page compares skimming and scanning and provides some techniques.
Other Overviews of Skimming and Scanning:
eHow to Read Quickly and Effectively,1053,3832,00.html
Insects: Skimming and Scanning
Reading Skills
Reading Strategies: skimming, scanning, reading intensively
Types of Reading
Skimming and Scanning Scientific Material
This page describes skimming and scanning techniques for scientific material.
Other Pages to Improve Science Reading:
How to Read a Scientific Research Paper
Skimming and Scanning
Track - Communication Skills: Reading
This page focuses on the importance of reading in everyday life. It also discusses the techniques of skimming, scanning, and speed reading.
Websites For Teachers
Amyby's Education Resources
This website provides lots of texts for students to practice reading. There are also some websites with reading comprehension practice opportunities.
ERIC Clearinghouse Reading English and Comprehension
This web page provides a good starting points on all areas of reading.
How to Read Nonfictional English Texts Faster and More Effectively
This page provides techniques, tasks, and exercises to improve speed when reading informational materials. Although designed for ESL students, these guidelines are useful for all students.
Other Text Reading Strategies:
How To Read University Texts or Journal Articles
Reading to Comprehend and Learn (PSQ5R)
Reading: Skimming and Scanning
In this lesson the students skim an article to find out the main points. They also formulate and answer questions by scanning materials for specific information.
Reading and skimming from computer screens and books
This web page discusses research regarding reading and skimming from a computer screen versus paper. It found the reading speed and comprehension is the same for the computer screen and paper. However, skimming on a computer is 41% slower than on paper.
Reading Comprehension Page
This page provides lots of ideas for increasing reading comprehension. It begins with an overview of the characteristics of good and poor readers, then provides specific reading strategies.
General Reading Resources:
Learning to Read
Reading Strategies
Reading for Information: The Trash-N-Treasure Method of Teaching Note-Taking
This article focuses on ideas for helping students read for information. It discusses techniques such as skimming and scanning.
Reading Lesson - Scanning Text
This lesson was designed for an ESL classroom, but can apply to all classrooms. It provides practice in scanning skills.
Review Basketball
This lesson uses a game to review skimming and scanning skills.
School Improvement in Maryland
This page contains strategies to help students with reading. The "Reading to be Informed" page provides a good classroom activity that requires students to read and answer questions. The ACE page focuses on specific reading and writing activities.
Skimming and Scanning (Age 5-11)
This lesson provides practice in skimming to find consonant blends.
The Skimming Way: Reading Strategy
This online, PowerPoint slide show provides an overview of skimming and skimming techniques.
Speed Reading at the UTLC
This page discussions issues relates to speed reading and provides some tips to increase reading speed.
Other Pages at this Site:
Textbook Reading Handouts
TurboRead Speed Reading
Although this is a commercial product, it might be helpful to provide an alternative view on skimming, scanning, and speed reading.
Other Speed Reading Resources:
How to Read Less More, and Twice as Fast
Tips for Improving your Reading Speed
Student Guide to Web Research Learning to Read on the Web
This lesson provides ideas for skimming and scanning web pages.
Related Pages at Website:
Student Guide
Learning the Read on the Web  
critical reading
speed reading
screen reading
study skills
search strategies
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 1/99
Updated, 4/01.