Skimming involves reading key parts of the text. You can use it when you need to get an overview of an author's main line of argument.
Two basic skim-reading techniques
This strategy is based on the idea that all well-written articles, essays and chapters of books are structured in the following way:
This means that the central ideas should be presented three times:
- noted briefly in the introduction
- discussed in detail in the body of the text
- reviewed briefly in the conclusion.
The beginning and ending paragraphs of a text should provide summaries of its central ideas.
The strategy here is to carefully read:
- the first few paragraphs of each chapter or section
- the final paragraph or conclusion of each chapter or section.
This strategy assumes that the first or opening sentence of each paragraph introduces the main point(s) to be discussed in that paragraph.
Reading only the opening sentence of each paragraph often gives you a clearer understanding of the author's reasoning and the structure of the argument than just relying on the introduction and conclusion.
Once you have established that the material is what you need then you can re-read it.
First sentence technique
The first sentence technique is also an effective strategy to use when note taking from books (and/or chapters of books) and articles. It can be used to create effective summaries of other people's writings - remembering, of course, that the sentences are still the author's words.
Once you have created the summaries you will still have to rewrite them in your own words. This is known as paraphrasing.