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How to expertly skim a college textbook?


Scanning is the act of searching a particular information in a text with a particular approach. For instance, if you want to know the meaning of the word ‘virtuous’ from a dictionary, you will start searching the letter V first, then I, and then R; by then you probably will have found the word. This process of searching is called scanning. It is a technique of fast reading.

Purposes of Scanning

  • To search for a word in a dictionary or index
  • To find a phone number or an address in a directory
  • To check the time schedule of a program in an agenda
  • To check the price of a specific item in a catalog
  • To know a particular information from a text

Scanning: Steps to Follow

  • Before starting to scan a text for a particular information, you know some basic things about that text. You will not be able to scan a text efficiently if you do not have a basic idea about that text. If the text is completely unknown to you, you should skim it first to get some ideas about that text. This will help you to guess the section or part of the text where you might find the information you need.
  • Notice how the information is arranged. It can be arranged either alphabetically or numerically. However, some texts are not arranged at all. In that case, you have to guess a section and scan it through to get your information.
  • Scanning a random unknown page of a text is difficult. It may take more time than the usual. However, it won’t take too much time if you move your eyes vertically and diagonally keeping in mind the exact letters or numbers you are looking for.

Use resources

Make an appointment with an academic coach at the Learning Center. Our coaches meet one-on-one with students to work through reading, study skills, and any other academic issue.

Meet with your professor in office hours about how to approach your course’s specific text and content.

Attend a peer tutoring session to get specific help with one of your courses or texts.



About the Author I am J.D. Meier. Join me on a quest for the world’s best insights and actions for work and life. Learn more…

Skimming is not…

Skimming can present problems if not done intentionally. Skimming is not simply flipping through a text quickly or paying half attention to it. When skimming, be deliberate and intentional with what you choose to read, and make sure that you are focused. Skimming is not a lazy way out or a half-hearted attempt at reading. Make sure that you use it carefully and strategically and are able to walk away with the main ideas of the text.

Use Peripheral Vision When Scanning

Your peripheral vision can also help you scan effectively.

When your hand moves down a list of names, you see not only the name your finger is pointing to, but also the names above and below.

Let your eyes work for you when searching for information.

Keep the concept of key words in mind while scanning.

Your purpose will determine the key words. Suppose you are looking for the time a train leaves from New York City for Washington, D.C.

The key words to keep in mind are “from New York City” and “to Washington,D.C.”

If you are looking for the cost of a computer printer with the code number PX-710, the key word to locate in a list of many printers is “PX-710.”

When to scan?

You scan when your aim is to find specific pieces

You scan when your aim is to find specific pieces of information.

If you were doing the research for an oral presentation, you could scan the index of books, web sites, and reference materials. You would discover whether they contain any information you want and the pages where the information can be found.

In the past, you probably scanned without knowing you were doing it.

Now with the information provided in this section, you can use scanning more intentionally and frequently.

The more you practice, the more effective scanning will become.

Finally, the most important benefit of scanning is its ability to help you become a more flexible reader. Scanning adds another high gear to your reading.

Because you may be used to reading every word and may be uncomfortable leaving some words out, you need to give yourself permission to overlook some words by skimming, scanning, and skipping material according to your reading purpose.

I give you permission to NOT read everything!

Make active reading a habit

Now you know how to read a textbook and actually remember what you learned.

The final step to becoming a learning ninja is to make all this a habit, and incorporate active reading and Brainscape flashcards into your overall study habits . This might feel like a fair amount of upfront work, but once it’s an automatic and non-negotiable part of your studies, you’ll end up spending less total time studying.

A small amount of reading the text book every day
A small amount of reading the text book every day results in exponential improvements to learning

You’ll become one of those annoying students who have plenty of time to do fun stuff during study week, and still walk away with top grades. Just as importantly, knowing how to engage in active reading will turn you into an effective-life long learner. At Brainscape, we believe being able to master hard subjects is a skill that compounds over time, and will put you on a career trajectory that leads to exciting places.

Therefore, go forth and read!

How to Scan

Establishing your purpose, locating the appropriatBecause you already scan many different types of material in your daily life, learning more details about scanning will be easy.

Establishing your purpose, locating the appropriate material, and knowing how the information is structured before you start scanning is essential.

The material you scan is typically arranged in the following ways: alphabetically, chronologically, non-alphabetically, by category, or textually.

Alphabetical information is arranged in order from A to Z, while chronological information is arranged in time or numerical order.

Information can be also be arranged in non- alphabetical order, such as a television listing, or by category, listings of like items such as an auto parts catalog.

Sometimes information is located within the written paragraphs of text, also known as a textual sense, as in an encyclopedia entry.

How can I contact you to ask about How To Skim A Textbook?

All the results for How To Skim A Textbook searching are available in the Howtolinks site for you to refer to. In case, you are still confused on some problems about How To Skim A Textbook, you can contact us via our email to get our best support.

Technique #1. Searching for a Needle in a Haystack

Where’s the needle?

Find it with skimming.

Pauk writes:

“If you want to find specific information (name, date, word, or phrase) in a textbook or article, searching may be used because it is recognition, not comprehension, that will give you the answer. 

To ensure that your eyes to not lover the word or fact you seek, concentrate on it, keeping it in mind as your eyes run over the pages. 

Concentration will trigger your mind to pick it out of the sea of words

Once you have located the specific word or fact, pause and read at a normal rate the sentence or paragraph surrounding it to make sure, through context, that you have found what you were looking for.

When using the searching technique, if your time is short, resist the temptation to read the whole article. 

What you may really be doing subconsciously, is putting off studying. 

But, if you do have time, follow your curiosity and finish the article. 

It may not help you on the next exam, but the knowledge gained will give you an edge and contribute to your general wisdom.”

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