Learn to Scan Read


Scan reading demands that you have a keen eye, high concentration and strict focus. While scanning, you use both your eyes and fingers. Though closely related to skimming, its primary purpose is not to understand all the information; rather, you try to locate specific information that interests you. Students use it often in their day-to-day studies. Below are six tips to help you learn to scan read:

Scan Reading versus Skim Reading

Scanning takes a focused approach with specific ideas or words at the back of your mind. Skimming, however, is reading a text roughly to get its general meaning. Both methods complement each other as you sort through volumes of text. However, scanning is more specific and faster.

Intricacies of Scanning

Understand the information you are looking for then note the words or phrases that may lead you to the relevant text. Take note of the form the words may take in the text, for example, is a figure in words or numeric. Get the right material to help you get the information quickly, for example, information on extinct plants is more likely available in biology books.

Factors to Consider Before Scanning

The length of a document can dictate the method you use to locate information. For example, long documents may require you to scan through as you note relevant text, and then skim over sections that interest you. Additionally, you may need to scan through sections that can guide you to relevant information faster, for example, the table of contents.

Concentration is vital

Your success, while scanning, depends highly on your ability to concentrate. Distractions throw you off course and can make you forget keywords you are trying to find. If you entertain distractions, you may have to go through a text repeatedly or risk missing the information you are trying to locate.

Let your fingers do the Scanning

Using your fingers, and peripheral vision makes scanning easy. Large volumes of text can confuse you and make scanning difficult. Your fingers will help lead your eyes through the text and help you track your progress to avoid going over the same text repeatedly. Using your fingers also helps you mark your progress as you take notes or if you need to deal with a distraction, for example, a question from a colleague.

Benefits of Scanning

Scanning, before reading, offers better comprehension of a passage. You note the main points in an article, develop questions then read it in depth as you try to find answers to the questions on your mind. It also helps you get the gist of the text in question. For example, you can scan through the last pages of a novel if you are curious to find out whether a character lives to the end.

Scanning is important while reading, however, it should not substitute the actual reading. Reading is for pleasure and comprehension, which you cannot derive from scanning. If you maintain concentration and make good use of your fingers and peripheral vision, you might be able to scan about 1500 words a minute – the standard rate of scanning.