Skimming & Scanning

For material-intensive reading it is often enough to apply skimming and scanning to get the main points; you do not always have to read every word.


Skimming is a way to quickly search and identify main ideas of a text. You skim a book, article or essay when you have a lot of material to cover in a short space of time. You can do this in several ways: 

  • read the first and last chapters – grasp the goal and conclusion of the text 
  • read the first sentence of each paragraph – understand the main point 
  • locate clues to the layout of material – build a mental structure of the content 
  • identify new, unfamiliar terms – create your own glossary


Scanning is a way to quickly locate specific facts, key words and phrases. You use this technique when you look up a name in the telephone book or dictionary. You move your eyes down the page searching for:

  • key words and phrases 
  • organisational clues such as numbers, letters, steps or the words such as: first, second, next 
  • headings in a different colour, bold, italics or fonts that stand out from the main body of text

Last modified: Wednesday, 7 February 2018, 2:55 PM