7 Difference Between Skimming And Scanning (Uses & Examples)

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What Is Skimming?

Skimming is a reading technique that enables a reader to gain the general idea about the text at a relatively faster rate. It does not involve a thorough reading and understanding. However, it often depends upon the skills of a reader to understand the text quickly.

Generally, a reader quickly reads all the words or the text that seems to be important and then tries to gain the general idea about the document. At times, when time is a constraint, skimming is achieved by reading that text only which is considered to be relevant. For example, one may read only the headings, subheadings and conclusion.

Skimming is used to find the main ideas of the text quickly or to simply familiarize yourself with a text that you have never seen before. The purpose of skimming is to get an idea of what is contained within a text before reading it thoroughly, word for word. Rather than reading everything word for word, when skimming, you would focus more on these specific things:

  • Read the title
  • Read the introduction or first paragraph
  •  Read the chapter preview or highlights
  • Read headings and subheadings
  • Look at pictures, graphs, charts, and bold lettering
  • Read the summary or last paragraph

What Is Scanning?

Scanning is a reading technique that enables the reader to look for a specific piece of information within an item of text. In other words, the reader looks for specific information rather than trying to absorb all the information. Scanning is a technique that requires concentration and can be surprisingly tiring. 

If you need to locate a specific piece of information quickly, you would use scanning. When scanning, you know exactly what you’re looking for; you just have to find it. To scan when reading, look for specific words or information. Let your eyes run rapidly over several lines of print. Use headings and other aids to help you identify sections where your answer might be found.

Scanning to answer questions
If you are scanning for facts to answer a specific question, one step is already done for you: the question itself supplies the keywords. Follow these steps:

  • Read each question completely before starting to scan. Choose your keywords from the question itself.
  • Look for answers to only one question at a time. Scan separately for each question.
  • When you locate a keyword, read the surrounding text carefully to see if it is relevant.
  • Re-read the question to determine if the answer you found answers this question.

Difference Between Skimming And Scanning In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON SKIMMING SCANNING
Description Skimming is reading a text quickly to find out the general theme, topic or meaning. Scanning is reading a text quickly in order to find specific information e.g figures or names.
Reader In Skimming, the reader is trying to get the general overview of the material. In scanning, the reader has prior knowledge of what he or she is looking for in the given text.
Involves It includes reading, introduction, headings, subheadings and conclusion. It involves going through the whole text quickly.
Advantage The reader is able to gather substantial information within a short period of time.  The reader is able to get limited but concrete information.
Text While skimming there is no need of reading all the text. Scanning sometimes involve going through entire text or a large percentage of the text.
Application Skim to preview a book for selection or when reading  magazines, newspapers and a non-fiction item, Scan if you need to find a specific piece of information e.g phone number, statistics, a word in a dictionary or searching a keyword in the index.
Nature Skimming is general in as far as its approach is concerned. Scanning is selective in as far as its approach is concerned.

Skimming Uses

  • Familiarize yourself with a chapter by looking at the headings, pictures, graphs, etc.
  • Preview a new textbook to find what information is inside by looking at the front and back covers and table of contents.

Scanning Uses

  • Use scanning to locate quotes in a text you have previously read.
  • Find specific words you are looking for on a worksheet by moving your eyes quickly across the page.
  • Use scanning to find answers to questions on a worksheet.

Scanning Vs Skimming: Key Difference

  1. Skimming is the practice of moving eyes over text quickly to get an overview and main ideas of the text. In reading, scanning is the practice of reading texts very quickly to find a particular piece of information.
  2. Skimming includes reading, introduction, headings, subheadings and conclusion whereas involves going through the whole text quickly.
  3. Skimming is reading a text quickly to find out the general theme, topic or meaning. Scanning is reading a text quickly in order to find specific Information e.g. figures or names.
  4. Skimming is useful for pre-reading tasks or texts that don’t need a lot of detailed attention. Scanning is useful for answering exam type questions which ask for True / False or to discover facts etc.