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Skimming and Scanning


Unlike a novel, where your understanding of the story depends on reading it from cover to cover, you only need to read portions of documents being used for research to find what you need. Depending on what you want to find, you may only need to read a couple of paragraphs or even a few lines!

Skimming and Scanning involves ‘reading’ or going through a text quickly with a specific purpose in mind. Your eyes scan over the pages and skim over paragraphs and word groups looking for keywords from a list you have created. You do not read every word. You do not try to summarize or retell what the entire text is about. Your main goal is to find the sections of the text that will help you answer your research questions.

Using skimming and scanning as a research technique allows you find what you need quickly and efficiently. Some tips to follow when skimming and scanning include:

  • Know what you want to find.
  • Create a list of keywords and phrases related to what you want to find.
  • Scan the text of the document using your keyword list.
  • Check the contents page and the index. Use the headings and sub-headings to tell you if a section is relevant to your research.
  • Read the beginning and endings of a document as well as the beginning of sections.
  • Don’t forget to use any illustrations, images, quotes, tables, charts and maps in the documents.

RESEARCH TIPSNEXT Using Graphic Organizers

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