Skimming and Scanning : Concepts, Examples, Differences (Table)

Skimming and scanning are two very different ways of reading. Skimming is just a quick read, where you briefly touch on the content to get a general idea about the topics. Scanning requires more commitment since it requires you to actually read every word that is written. This article will provide you with the complete difference between skimming and scanning with a table comparing these two reading styles.

Skimming Vs Scanning

Skimming is the method of hurried reading in which a reader concentrate simply on the passage’s core idea or message in order to gain a broad understanding of the material.As the name suggests, scanning is the method of extensively reading a book or article to find specific information.
The main objective of skimming is to take a quick read-through to get a birds-eye view of the content.Its objective is to have a thorough lookout for specific information. 
Skimming is typically done by reading headings, subheadings first sentences of a paragraph, and the conclusion.Scanning is typically done by reading the whole text or article carefully.
It is a quick method of reading.It is a selective method.
The advantage of skimming is reading maximum text in a limited(less) time.It helps in finding out all the required information about a specific topic.
It is also useful for getting an idea of the main points in a text.It is also useful for finding specific details in a text.
For Example, students usually skim a textbook to get a review before starting a paper or test.For Example, a job seeker scans a job advertisement to see if they meet the required qualifications.

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What is Skimming?

When you skim, you quickly read through a text to get a general idea. You don’t read every word, but you look at the overall structure, the topic sentences, and any headings or keywords. 

Skimming can be useful when you want to get a general overview of a text, or when you’re trying to find specific information in a long or dense piece of writing. The readers of a textbook, for example, might skim the chapter titles and headings to see what the book will cover.

You can skim to get an overview of a text before you read it in detail, or after you have read it to check what points stand out most. To skim effectively, move your eyes quickly over the text, scanning for keywords and ideas. Try not to read every word – this will slow you down.

How to Skim – Seven Steps

Here are seven steps on how to skim effectively:

  • Start at the beginning and read the first sentence or two. This will give you a general idea of what the text is about.
  • Then, quickly scan through the rest of the text, looking for keywords or phrases. These could be names, numbers, dates, etc. that will help you get a better understanding of the text.
  • Once you’ve found these keywords or phrases, go back and re-read the sentences or paragraphs containing them. This will help you grasp the main ideas of the text more easily.
  • If there are any pictures, charts, or graphs in the text, take a quick look at them to see if they provide any helpful information.
  • After you’ve done all this, try to summarize in your own words what the text was about. This will help solidify your understanding of it.
  • Finally, if there’s still time, go back and read through the entire text more slowly to gain a deeper understanding of it.
  • Practice makes perfect! The more you skim texts, the better you’ll become at it.

What is Scanning?

When you scan text, you are looking for specific information. This could be a particular word or phrase, a number, or anything that stands out to you. Scanning is often used when you are trying to find a specific piece of information in a large body of text, such as a phone number in a phone book or an address in a dictionary.

To scan text effectively, you need to know what you are looking for. This means that you will need to have some idea of the topic of the text before you start scanning. Once you know what you are looking for, your eyes can quickly move over the text looking for the desired information.

If the text is well organized, it can be helpful to skim it first to get an overview of its contents. This will give you a better idea of where to find the specific information you are looking for. Once you have found what you are looking for, you can go back and read the section more carefully.

How to Master Scanning Reading – Five Steps

Assuming you already have a general understanding of what skimming and scanning are, let’s get into how you can master the art of scanning reading. Here are five steps to follow:

  • Know your purpose for reading. This will help you determine which type of scanning is most appropriate. If you’re looking for specific information, for example, then targeted scanning may be best.
  • Train your eyes to move quickly across a page. This may take some practice, but it’s important to be able to quickly scan a text for key information.
  • Use your finger or a pencil to help guide your eyes as you scan. This can help increase your speed and accuracy.
  • Practice different types of texts, such as newspapers, magazines, and online articles. This will help you become more comfortable with scanning different types of materials.
  • Make sure to take breaks while reading. Scanning can be taxing on your eyes, so it’s important to give them a break every now and then!

Key Differences Between Skimming and Scanning

When you read text, your brain can do one of two things: skim or scan. There are seven key differences between skimming and scanning.

  • Meaning – Skimming is when you read quickly, usually to get a general idea of the content. On the other hand, scanning is when you look for specific information, often using your eyes to jump from place to place.
  • Purpose – The purpose of skimming is to get a general overview of the text, while the purpose of scanning is to find specific information.
  • Speed – Skimming is done quickly, while scanning is usually done at a slower speed.
  • Method – When skimming, your eyes may move across the text in a zig-zag pattern; when scanning, your eyes may move back and forth or up and down the page.
  • Direction – When skimming, you typically read from top to bottom; when scanning, you may start anywhere on the page and move in any direction.
  • Attention – When skimming, you pay less attention to detail; when scanning, you try to take in as much detail as possible.
  • Comprehension – Skimming allows for less comprehension than scanning; however, both methods allow for some level of understanding of the text.

The following table compares both skimming and scanning in a sequential manner.

comparison table for difference between skimming and scanning

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Is there any Similarity Between Skimming and Scanning?

Yes, there are two main similarities between skimming and scanning, given as follows.

  • Types: Both Skimming and scanning are the types or methods of reading.
  • Purpose: Both of them are used to gather data or information from a book, document, or any other sources.


When you’re trying to read something quickly, you have two main options: skimming and scanning. They’re both effective reading strategies, but they’re best used in different situations.

Skimming is good for getting the general idea of a text. You read quickly, looking for the main points. This is a good strategy when you don’t need to know all the details, or if you’re trying to find a specific piece of information in a long text.

Scanning is better for finding specific information in a text. You move your eyes quickly over the page, looking for the word or phrase you’re interested in. This is a good strategy when you need to find a specific piece of information quickly, or if you’re trying to get an overview of a complex text.

Both skimming and scanning are useful reading strategies. The key is to know when to use each one.

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Basir Saboor

Basir Saboor is a dedicated writer with over 7 years of expertise in researching and disseminating information on technology, business, law, and politics. His passion lies in exploring the dynamic landscape of technology, tracking the latest trends, and delving into the intricacies of the ever-evolving business world. As a firm believer in the influential power of words, he crafts content that aims to inspire, inform, and influence.

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