READ 110 POWER READING ONLINE  

          MODULE 5.1  -   SKIMMING

 

course home |module home | instructor | Blackboard | reference links

module 5: introduction | calendar / due dates| lab assignments | module 5 links

Module 5.1 -  Skimming 

Learning Objectives: When you finish Mod 5.1 you should be able to answer the following questions:

What is skimming?

What are the basic differences between skimming and rapid reading?

How can I improve my skimming technique?

Why skim?

When is skimming helpful to college students?

 

What is skimming?

 

As you know, flexibility is one sign of a power reader. Fluent readers are able to adapt their reading skills to meet the demands of the reading task before them, varying rates of speed and levels of comprehension to suit their purpose for reading. Readers often encounter a great deal of material that they would like to cover either because they are interested in a particular topic or simply because they want to stay current in their field or with local, national, and world events. When good readers want to cover large amounts of material quickly, they skim.

 

To skim is to pass quickly over material  - as quickly as you can - while getting a general, holistic view of the content. Skimming is not for situations where a high level of comprehension is required, but is very useful when it may be appropriate to accept a level of comprehension somewhat lower than that obtained at average reading speeds. You should aim for the main idea(s), the outline, the major supporting details, and an idea of the organizational pattern. Previously we have discussed using skimming to preview material prior to a more in-depth reading. Unlike preview skimming, overview skimming is the mode to use when you are not planning to eventually read the entire work. Overview skimming will be your only reading of the selection and is most useful for relatively easy to moderately difficult material. Skimming is most useful for obtaining a surface understanding and is not recommended for in-depth understanding or analysis.

 

Skimming - This page compares skimming and scanning and provides some useful tips and techniques.

Here's an example of skimming for main ideas: Try this skimming exercise.

 

Acceptable rates:  800 - 1,500 wpm

 

Acceptable comprehension:  50-60% with all main ideas

 

What are the basic differences between skimming and rapid reading?

  1. In skimming it is advisable to leave out material. In some cases you may skip whole sentences or parts of paragraphs, sometime half or three-quarters of a paragraph if you feel you've grasped the main idea. In skimming, whole blocks of text containing minor details or less important information may be selectively skipped over. 

  2. Skimming also differs from rapid reading in that lowered levels of comprehension are acceptable. Aim for 50% comprehension when skimming - 60% would be a little above average. If you find yourself consistently scoring 70 to 80%, you are not skimming fast enough.

  3. Skimming rates vary from task to task, but as a rule of thumb, try to skim at least twice as fast as your rapid reading rate.

FLEXIBILITY FOR POWER READERS

MODE OF READING RATE COMPREHENSION
SLOW:  Study and critical reading - used when material is difficult or when high  comprehension is required. 200 to 300 wpm 80 - 90%
AVERAGE: Pleasure and rapid reading - used for everyday reading of magazines, newspapers, independent reading, and easier texts. 250 to 500 wpm 70%
ACCELERATED: Skimming and scanning - used when the highest rate is desired. Comprehension is intentionally lower. 800+ wpm 50 - 60%

 

How can I improve my skimming technique? 

 

Follow this procedure for efficient skimming:

  1. Do a minimal preview of length, title, subtitle, publication information, visual aids, difficulty level. As with any preview, this aids in comprehension and speed.

  2. Read selectively for main ideas. Key parts to focus on are usually a lead, first paragraph (usually the introduction), beginnings of key paragraphs, last paragraph (usually the conclusion).

  3. Time yourself and keep the correct mind-set.

  4. Vary your rate. Read key parts carefully and reread them if necessary; race past or through unimportant material. Use a crutch to vary rate:

    • pacing device to keep your eyes moving quickly through less important material, 

    • reading aloud when you encounter material you find difficult to understand, 

    • highlighting for information you may want to review or find quickly later.

  5. Move your eyes in a wide spiral pattern. A very wide "S" curve is appropriate for most textbooks. Use the straight down pattern when skimming academic journal articles, magazines, newspapers, or other material formatted in columns.

  6. Use a soft focus. Relax your eye and facial muscles, look slightly above the line of print, and let your eyes float down the page. Try to read lines, not individual letters and words.

HOW TO SKIM

Usually the first paragraph will be read at rapid reading rate (about 300 - 400 wpm) all the way through. The first few paragraphs often contain an introduction or overview of the topic and the author's main idea(s). You should begin to grasp the author's style, mood, tone, and intent as well.

Sometimes, however, the second paragraph contains the introduction or overview. In the first paragraph the author might just be "warming up" or saying something clever to "hook" the reader and motivate your interest. 

Approximately 87% of textbook authors will explicitly state their main idea in the first sentence of the paragraph (the topic sentence)  --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

Reading a third or fourth paragraph completely might be unnecessary -- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Read the key sentences and let your eyes jump down through the paragraph --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- pick out major supporting details --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- names --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- dates --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- important words --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

--- --- --- --- --- --- phrases --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- numbers --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

This tells you nothing --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- Remember, sometimes the main idea is in the middle or at the end of the paragraph.

Some paragraphs merely repeat ideas or give additional examples or illustrations --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

Occasionally the main idea can't be found in the opening sentence. Then you must read the whole paragraph. 

When this happens, leave out a lot of the next paragraph --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- to make up time --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

Remember to keep up a very fast rate --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---  --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 800 to 1,500 wpm --- --- --- --- --- ---  --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

Don't be afraid to leave out half or more of each paragraph ---- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---  --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

Don't get interested and start reading everything    

 --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- skimming is work --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---  --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

Lowered comprehension is expected  --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---50%  --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- is not too low --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

Skimming practice makes it easier --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- and will help you to gain confidence that --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- you are not missing the most important information --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Perhaps you won't get anything at all from a few paragraphs --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- don't worry --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

Skimming has many uses --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- reports --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ------ --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- newspapers --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---  supplementary text --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

The ending paragraphs might be read more fully as often they contain a summary.

Remember that the importance of skimming is to get only the author's main ideas at a very fast speed.

 

Practice.  Developing skimming ability requires practice. The more you practice, the better. Magazine articles and chapters from supplementary textbooks are a good source of material for additional skimming practice. Set a goal of 800 wpm even if repeated practice on the same article is necessary. Check a page or two of the book or magazine to discover the approximate number of words per page. Determine the number of pages you must cover each minute to achieve 800 wpm.

 

Check Comprehension.  Skim an article and then write a paragraph stating the main ideas plus a few of the details. Reread the article at a rapid reading rate to determine whether or not you correctly identified the main idea and only the most important details.

 

Skim regularly and often.  The more you skim, the more you gain in confidence, and the better your chances of making skimming a permanent reading skill. Use skimming everyday in order to establish the habit; it will prove valuable throughout your life.

 

Why skim?

 

Some advantages of skimming:

  • Improves other reading rates - Learning to skim rapidly can help you improve your speed for study reading and average reading as well.

  • Keeps you informed - Use skimming to building background knowledge. Skimming will help you keep informed in political affairs or other areas when you don't have the time to read very much.

  • Speeds supplementary assignments - Skim supplementary material and you may be pleased and surprised to find how much information you will comprehend.

  • Increases your sources of reference - Skim to build up your knowledge of reference materials. Skim journals or reports in your major field of study when you don't have the time to read them thoroughly. Knowing the article exists, the author, and perhaps its main idea can be important. Citing the main idea of the article in class or in discussion with your professor will make you seem very well informed. In addition, if you want to use the article later, you will know where to find it when you are ready for more detailed perusal.

  • Brings useful material to your attention - People who have the habit of skimming a large amount of material will invariably come across certain articles or parts of books that are of great importance to them. These important parts can be read more carefully, but if you had never developed the habit of skimming, you might never have become aware of this important information.

 

When is skimming helpful to college students?

 

Use skimming as part of your regular textbook reading and studying.

Check out Skimming and Scanning Scientific Material and How to Read a Scientific Research Paper. These tips are good for moving quickly and efficiently through any type of textbook - not just science.

 

This page on The Basics of Skimming and Scanning includes lots of valuable links.

 

Use Skimming and Scanning to find information you need on the Web - A Student's Guide to Research with the WWW - This lesson provides ideas for skimming and scanning web pages.

 

Return to top of page

 

Reading Services Department Home | Palomar College Home