11 Skimming and Scanning

Practical activities for these skills will be demonstrated in class as part of term one course content.


Skimming enables you to get a quick overview of a text, without reading it in full.

Run your eyes over the text looking at titles, headings, sub-headings, emphasized text, figures, tables, images, dot-points, and key words. Also read the first sentence of each paragraph for key information, such as names, dates, people and places.

This will quickly build an overview of the main ideas in the text. This is a very useful academic skill, particularly when research and reading is required for written assessments. It will help you to determine whether a source is useful or worth further in-depth reading. Good reading and research will take up a great deal of your time as a university student. Therefore, it is important you learn the necessary skills to be an effective and efficient reader.


This technique helps you discover specific information in a text () quickly.

Perhaps you’re thinking “I can just use the ‘ctrl F’ shortcut on my computer keyboard and type in the key word or phrase I’m searching for”. While this is true, many exams are paper only and you will require the capacity to identify answers within the text quickly.

Firstly, determine the key words you are searching for, so you know what to focus on.

Then, quickly and systematically scan across and down the page from left to right, top to bottom. If you are searching for data, scan the page for numbers and percentages and look at tables and graphs also. If you are searching for a key word, think of it as a whole word, don’t just look for the first letter of the word (like a word search puzzle).

You may need to complete a second or third pass over the material to identify what you are looking for. Therefore, it makes sense to use the skimming technique first to identify key sections of the text where you may find the relevant information you are seeking.

Video [1]


  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3F8pQLtY_Q&ab_channel=MaryatiHulalata


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Academic Writing Skills by Patricia Williamson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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