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General reading strategies

Critical Reading

Pre-reading: Skimming and Scanning

Skimming and scanning are useful pre-reading strategies. Each is used for a different purpose. Skimming builds on the strategy of predicting and is used to gain a general overview of the article's main ideas, structure and argument before you read it in detail. It also helps you to decide if a text is appropriate to read for your purpose and to determine how much and what you should read more intensively.

In skimming an article you may quickly read the title, the abstract, the main headings, the introduction, the first sentence of each paragraph and the conclusion. This may take you 5-10 minutes but it is time well spent. You will have built up a good mental picture of the article and be well prepared for more intensive reading.

Scanning is used to locate specific information very quickly. For example, you may want to find a definition of a key term or if the research of a certain author or group of authors is reviewed. Let your eyes wander over the text without reading every word until you find the information you are looking for. Scanning can be used during the early stages of reading and researching as well as during the later stages to clarify specific points.

The exercise on the next page practices skimming extracts from longer texts. Typically, in skimming an article you would read the abstract carefully and skim very quickly through the rest of the article to get the gist without reading everything. The next exercise restricts the amount of text you will see, while still practising skimming and the sub-skill of scanning.

Click Next or on the exercise icon above to try this for yourself.