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What Is Meant By Skim Reading?

Skim reading is a way of going through a text where you are basically only focussing on the key ideas in a text. You are not reading to understand all the details. You simply want to see the general structure and ideas the author is sharing. This way of reading is one method for speed reading. It is a very selective kind of reading.

Many people are skim reading these days. You probably did this yourself as well when you are reading news articles. You read the headline first. This helps you decide if you should be reading the article. If so, you probably read a piece of the introduction (to get a general idea). Next, you read the headlines and see if there are things you should be focussing on in more detail. 

The beauty of skim reading is that it will give you a good idea of a text very quickly. Just as you do with article reading, you get a good picture by just reading headlines. And when you also have a look at words written in BOLD or subheadings… you know a lot already. For most articles (or even study books), you don’t need to read all the details to know what you are studying. Let’s investigate this further.

Why Should You Skim Read?

Even if you are really convinced you have never in your whole life done any skim reading, I have to tell you that you did. We all do this. Our brains are scanning for information all the time. We want to find the relevant, most important, or interesting pieces in a text… as quickly as possible. 

That is why you should start to incorporate skim reading into your arsenal of study tactics. It makes you a more complete reader. 

For me, skim reading is a way of pre-reading a text. It helps me identify what is being said and where the important parts are that I need to focus on. This makes the actual in-depth reading a whole lot easier.

Now you know that skim reading is a helpful tactic in studying and learning new things. There are people who say that it might be bad. Let’s investigate that further…

Is Skim Reading Bad?

Skim reading is not bad, in most cases. I actually believe that for most people, skim reading is the new normal reading. Let me explain. People are always in a rush. They take less and less time to actually sit down and do a task with their full attention. After all, people don’t even take the time to simply drive, work out, or even go to the bathroom without their phones! It looks like we always need a distraction…

Skim reading could be a really good thing for people. Just being able to use a really helpful technique like skim reading to go through a text is a good thing. You are doing something with focus and intention! And at the same time you are probably learning something (learn more about reading comprehension here)!

Sure, you may only be touching the surface level of the information in a book or article. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I read plenty of books from which I can honestly say that I should have skim read it. The concepts were all familiar, the examples often the same, and I did not really learn anything new. 

That said, you should be investing time in new topics and books with unfamiliar subjects. That way you can become a better-informed individual. And skim reading can be a great activity to learn more. Let me show you…

How Do You Skim A Reading Text?

We now talked about why skim reading is not a bad thing. it helps you to quickly learn more about the content and general subjects in a text. But how would you be using that in real life? For example, how would you benefit from this when studying? Here’s how…

skim reading a book

Skim reading is one of the first things you should be doing when reading a new (study) book or article. It helps you to set your mind and gives you a good idea of what the author is discussing. What I do is take a chapter in my book for example, and quickly look over the pages: 

  • What are the headlines I am seeing? 
  • What are the images I see?
  • What do I think I am learning more about?

I don’t try to be drawn into the text itself. I don’t want to be reading right now. That is something I will do later on. I do take some notes. (learn to do this with mind maps). This is usually not about the direction of the text or the general ideas. I am new to the chapter but most likely not a complete newbie. And even if that was the case, you and I can see the development of a chapter pretty well when only looking at headline reading. 

The notes I take when skim reading are on ideas, strange words I see, or questions I get when simply going over the text. These help me in being a very solution-focused reader when I start my in-depth reading. 

I may do this skim reading one time for a chapter. It may be that I am doing it a few times. Remember, this is not a bad thing. I am simply getting a good idea about the chapter. This will help me (and you) later when you really start studying the content. 


In short… skim reading is most definitely not bad. It is in fact a very helpful tool for everybody who is studying. Skim reading is a selective reading to help you identify the key concepts and ideas from your book. It is so incredibly useful because it can be done in little time. You are going over a text much faster than with traditional reading.

Use this method when studying! Let me know if you have any questions.

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