Skimming Is Reading At Light Speed!

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Skimming a text means extracting the essence of the text without having to read the whole text.

Skimming is not speed reading. While in speed reading you are getting all the details of the text but a very high speed, by skimming you discard a lot of (detailed) information. However, with a proper skimming technique you can increase your reading speed to thousands of words per minute (WPM), at the expense of missing details and secondary information.

Why To Skim Text?

Skim may be a good technique to quickly discover two things from texts:

  1. Get the essential content of a text. For example, imagine that you need to read several books for your work or school, but you have no time to read them all (even if you are using speed reading!). Then, you can use skimming in order to get the basic information of the text. So when you go to school or work you know what the others are talking about. If you are good at skimming, you can even get the main point and hence be able to discuss about it.
  2. Help you decide if you should read the text with more time and attention. I use this skill for deciding if I a scientific paper, with lots of demonstrations and complex reasonings, is worth to be read or not. Also, skimming a novel may be interesting in order to discover if the novel may be interesting for you. By skimming a text you can get an idea of what the text is about and then decided whether to take the time to read it completely.

Skimming works better with technical material or essay than with novels. Technical books or essays usually have a very clear structure that you can quickly capture with skimming. Novels however contain lots of details that are relevant and you will miss if you apply skimming and the structure is very blurry.

The Techniquesmall__5484711716

Skimming is a technique that requires from you to move away from your passive attitude at reading, to a more active one.

In order to perform correct skimming you must consciously decide what part of the text to read and what part not to. Failing at doing this active decision will leave you either with a mess in your head about what the text is about, or missing important data from the text.

Skimming does not mean that you move your eyes around the text trying to capture something meaningful. Skimming has a proper technique, and that is what you are going to learn right now.

  • Read the first paragraph of the chapter/paper/web page. This paragraph usually sets the tone for what is about to come in the text, and will prepare your mind for it.
  • For each paragraph afterwards, read only the first sentence of each paragraph. Those sentences usually contain the main idea of the paragraph. And if it doesn’t, it means that the text has not correctly written, and anybody reading the whole text will find the text difficult to follow and understand.
  • When you have finished the first sentence of a paragraph, scan the rest of the paragraph looking for important data. Observe that I have said, scan, not read. Scan means looking for. It is like if you where looking for specific patterns in the text without even reading them. Typical patterns that you can look for are names (of things, of people, of places…), numbers, dates, …
  • When you reach the last paragraph of the text, read the last paragraph completely. It usually contains the conclusions of the text. The conclusions are the main ideas that the text wants to communicate, hence by reading it, you got the cream of the text.

Once you have skimmed the text using the previous steps, you have the main ideas of it. Based on your goals and time available you may decide now, having the main ideas of the text in your head, to read completely some parts of the text to obtain additional information. That is up to you.

As a final advice, always combine skimming with speed reading, for the paragraphs that you have to read completely. Doing this way you will optimize your reading speed.

The Workout

Now is your turn to practice the skimming technique. Below there are a set of workouts, one for each day of the week. Perform each workout on the correspondent day.

Monday Workout

  • Visit the following link and apply the Skimming Technique to read the post.
  • Select one book of your own shelf that you have already read, and read it applying the Skimming Technique. Do not choose a novel.
  • Take advantage of your knowledge of the book when applying the technique.

Tuesday Workout

  • Visit the following link and apply the Skimming Technique to read the post.
  • Select one book of your own shelf that you have already read, and read it applying the Skimming Technique. Do not choose a novel.
  • Take advantage of your knowledge of the book when applying the technique.

Wednesday Workout

  • Visit the following link and apply the Skimming Technique to read the post.
  • Select one book of your own shelf that you have already read, and read it applying the Skimming Technique. Make sure that the book is a novel.
  • Take advantage of your knowledge of the book when applying the technique.

Thursday Workout

  • Visit the following link and apply the Skimming Technique to read the post.
  • Select one book of your own shelf that you have not already read, and read it applying the Skimming Technique. Do not choose a novel.

Friday Workout

  • Visit the following link and apply the Skimming Technique to read the post.
  • Select one book of your own shelf that you have not already read, and read it applying the Skimming Technique. Make sure that the book is a novel.

The Extra Workout

On Saturday, perform the following mandatory workout:

The Book Shop Workout

  • Visit a book shop at your city.
  • Go to the section of Essay, and select one book.
  • Go to the section of Science, and select another book.
  • Go to the section of Novels, and select another book.
  • Apply the Skimming Technique and read each book onsite. You do not have to buy them unless you want!

Conclusion

medium_5531759796Skimming is a very good technique to have in your mental arsenal. It is extremely useful when wanting to grasp the ideas contained in a text without having to read it. Practice it and learn by yourself when to apply it.

 

photo credit: Ken-ichi via photopin cc

photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

photo credit: chelsey.baldock via photopin cc

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