Skimming and Scanning Techniques in Academic Writing

Skimming and Scanning Academic Texts

The reader’s perception of any piece of writing gets deeper once he/she gets familiarized with it. Among other efficient methods for starting the careful reading required for academic work, there is getting a general overview of the content before beginning to read it in detail.

When the reader first skims a text, he/she gets an idea of how it progresses further. Besides, skimming helps the reader decide about which parts of the text deserve special attention when he/she has limited time for reading. Here is one effective technique for skimming a text.

  1. Before skimming the text, use your preferred previewing technique.
  2. Read the introduction attentively. Clarify the focus of the text, and try to predict which explanations or arguments are going to be used by the author.
  3. Read the first couple of sentences of every paragraph carefully, along with the concluding sentences.
  4. In between these first and last sentences, keep your eyes moving while eliminating looking up unfamiliar terms. At this stage, you aim to pick up the overall pattern and the importance of the text.
  5. Read the last paragraph attentively. What does the writer’s general purpose seem to be? Do not forget that you may be mistaken, so be ready to change your mind later.
  6. Lastly, return to the very beginning and read through the entire text thoroughly, noting the difficulties you missed while skimming, and gaining a better understanding of the content. Think about your goal in reading this piece of writing and what you should retain from it. Look up the terms or any unfamiliar words that appear throughout the text.

Scanning is very similar to skimming, but it has a more tightly focused goal: finding a specific fact or figure or figuring out if the piece of writing mentions a subject of your research. Scanning is crucial in completing research papers when there is a necessity to look through numerous sources in order to gather the required material. Keep your goals in mind while scanning, and avoid being distracted by other content. You can note what you would like to return to later.