Skimming and scanning are two essential reading techniques that help individuals quickly extract information from a text. While they both involve quickly moving through a text, they serve different purposes and are used in various situations. In this article, we will explore ten key differences between skimming and scanning to help you improve your reading efficiency.
Skimming is a speed reading or information processing technique with the objective of understanding the key messages of the text, with less emphasis on details. It is characterized by reading at a speed much faster than the traditional reading. During skimming, trained eyes may find and focus on relevant parts of the information while neglecting the part that is not necessary for the level of comprehension required.
Skimming requires the reader to have some level of familiarity with the material or subject being read, and the ability to quickly differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information. During skimming, some text structure may be more suitable than otherwise, such as a well paragraphed text, readability, text with contextual cues such as highlighted, bold, italic and underlined texts, etc. Skimming becomes easier where the key information in a text is highlighted in any manner.
Even in the absence of highlights, experienced skim readers can still do their skimming perfectly. The purpose of skimming is usually to familiarize oneself with the outline of the text, and not necessarily to grasp the details of the information contained thereon.
Scanning on the other hand is a lighter relative to skimming. It is a form of speed reading where the reader takes a cursory glance at the context of the information. After scanning, the reader should be able to get a rough idea as to what information is contained in the text within the specific area so searched. Scanning can also be done for the purpose of familiarizing oneself with the outline of the text.
Scanning is usually employed in order to find specific information contained in a text. Both skimming and scanning can be employed at leisure reading. Both can also operate as an introductory perusal of an academic text. For some people, skimming and scanning are the first things they do whenever they come in contact with a text (usually an unfamiliar text) after which they may proceed to reading in details. For both skimming and scanning, some levels of information are taken in.
Differences Between Skimming and Scanning
The differences between these two concepts are surrounded on their purposes and their effects.
1. Skimming is like test-driving a car before buying it. Skimming seeks to get a feel for what the piece of text is all about. The purpose of skimming is to acquire the gist contained in a text. It is a type of reading technique whereby the reader flips or goes through the text quickly in order to have an idea of the concept and subject matter of the text, without paying close attention to the details of the text.
On the other hand, scanning can be likened to a word search of which the reader becomes fulfilled and accomplished upon finding the particular area he or she is looking for. Scanning does not necessarily seek to get the gist of a text, rather it is particularly concerned with getting specific information of which in the process, the reader may not escape getting at least a clue of the text eventually.
2. Skimming involves reading as much as possible, an amount of information contained in a text within short or a lesser time, while scanning is not necessarily interested in reading the information but merely to search for a particular information as fast as possible.
3. Skimming is a quick reading method. During skimming, the reader may even go through the whole text in seriatim, only that it is done quickly and in a much faster pace than the actual reading.
For scanning, it is rather a selective form of reading. The reader consciously avoids some parts while specifically looking out for a particular part or area.
4. Skimming does not look out for a particular information. It merely seeks to take an insight of the content of the study material on a very fast pace. Scanning on the other hand specifically looks out for specific information which could be word, phrase, topic or any information whatsoever.
5. In the case of scanning, the reader may have been in encounter with the text and therefore familiar with the text to an extent, or he has the knowledge of what he is looking for in the given text, whereas skimming is employed to get acquainted with an unfamiliar text which the reader is probably reading for the first time.
6. Scanning is only interested in a particular are of which when successfully found, the purpose has be attained. Scanning therefore does not give the reader a general overview of the information contained in the text but may give specific information, whereas skimming actually gets the reader informed of the general overview of the text.
7. The purpose of skimming is certainly not to find an answer to any question, but could arise out of mere curiosity to know the idea of a text. But in the case of scanning, the purpose could be to get answers to a research or to find answers to questions. Scanning therefore demands that the reader ought to know and understand the question or the need that necessitated the search/scanning.
The purpose of skimming is therefore fulfilled once an overview of the text is gotten by the reader, while the purpose of scanning is fulfilled once the specific information being looked out for by the reader is found.
8. During scanning, the reader is consciously avoiding the unnecessary information while consciously looking out for the particular one in question, whereas during skimming, the reader is not yet certain as to which information is relevant and not. So he may have to glance through almost all the text because he is not certain of what he is looking for. The reader merely takes what is given to him.
9. Skimming actually prepares the reader’s mind as to what to expect from the text. The practice of skimming can therefore motivate the reader to read the text further in details afterwards; and this is if the general overview gotten out of the skimming exercise was captivating.
It can as well discourage the reader not to go further with reading the books in details where the general overview gotten from the skimming exercise is less interesting. On the other hand, scanning has no such motivating impact.
10. For both scanning and skimming, the reader does not have to read the whole text. However, skimming is more extensive and comprehensive than scanning, whereas in some cases, scanning is rather more intensive than skimming.
Also generally, skimming takes a longer time that scanning. Scanning may take a longer time but not as much longer as skimming would take, generally speaking.
Skimming and scanning are two relative study techniques. They are relative but absolutely not the same, hence the need for pointing out their differences amidst their similarities. Employing the skimming and scanning technique is well recommended as it helps to save time and promote efficacy in the study process.