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Academic reading: Skimming and scanning

Skimming and scanning

Skimming means reading quickly- horizontally- through the text to get a general understanding of the content and its usefulness.
Scanning means to read quickly- vertically or diagonally- locate single words, facts, dates, names, or details.

When to use skimming and scanning?

Skimming helps you find the basic structure of where you can find certain information and scanning then helps you find a particular fact within that piece of text. You use skimming when you are previewing a text (determining whether you want to read the text), reviewing a text (reading after you read) or when you are determining the main idea from a long paper. Use scanning in research to find specific facts. When scanning a text, you also use keywords, but in contrast to skimming, you zoom in on specific words or information you need. You can also combine these two techniques. When you've skimmed a text and when you think the information is useful or important, you can scan the surrounding information in that particular part of the text. Or the other way around: once you have located a certain word by scanning the text, you can skim the whole paragraph or section for a quick idea of the information it contains.


Click the image above to watch the video.


You now know the different steps for skimming a text. In this task, you are going to skim the text you see. Use the steps as they were described in screencast 1. Write down what you think the text is about and whether you get a general understanding of the text.

If not, watch the screencast again.

Click the image above to watch the video.


Important: do not stop the video. You are supposed to skim at the speed at which the video is played.


Click the image above to watch the video.


You now know how to scan text. With that information in mind, have a look at the questions below. You will now see a section from a text about gender inequality and health. Scan the text and use the steps you have seen in screencast 3. Set the time for 5 minutes. Once you are done, look at the statements below and see if you can determine whether they are true or false.

Click to read text

In the following task, respond to the questions. You will be presented with a series of statements to which you must respond.
  1. Men and women have different jobs and that results in differential exposure to disease.
  2. Men more often have respiratory problems because of their work.
  3. Caregivers often have more symptoms of depression when they care for physically disabled people.
  4. Men experience negative health outcomes due to some notions of masculinity.
  5. Masculine behaviour is a major cause for death for both men and women.
  6. High school girls in Managua participate less in physical activities because of the existing gender norms.

  1. True
  2. False (women)
  3. False (caregivers of patients with dementia)
  4. True
  5. True
  6. True