Author: Sydney Bauer
This lesson explains how to skim a reading.
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Introduction to Psychology

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Skimming helps you to quickly identify the main ideas of a reading passage and create a brief overview of the information included in the reading passage. Rather than reading each and every word, skimming focuses your attention on nouns and verbs (who did what). It also helps you see the progression from one idea to the next as new nouns and verbs mix with old ones again and again.


When you are skimming:

  • move your eyes vertically across each line (try to keep a pace that is 3 times faster than your reading pace)
  • focus on the nouns and verbs in the sentences (don’t let adverbs, adjectives, or articles slow you down!)
  • try reading the first and last sentences of each paragraph (the topic and transitional sentences), and glancing at the rest of the information. These can act as guideposts, so that you have some sort of way to connect the nouns and verbs to the big picture


Skimming is useful

  • when you are sorting through possible sources for a research paper to see which ones will be helpful
  • when you have a lot of reading to cover in a short amount of time (like when you need to read a passage and answer questions for a test)
  • when you are making connections between graphs, charts, or diagrams, and the information in the text of the passage
  • when you are looking for specific information (like names, dates, statements, events…)


It is also helpful to skim

  • as a pre-reading exercise (so that the in-depth reading is faster and more efficient)
  • as a post-reading exercise (so that you can review the information you read, and make stronger connections between the beginning and the end of the passage)