Difference Between Skimming and Scanning (With Table)

Reading is a technical process of perceiving and understanding. It helps a person to improve the learning capacity and develop knowledge, improve understanding of the language and build vocabulary. Most of the people treat Reading as a hobby. 

Reading practices involve two important techniques; Skimming and Scanning. These two techniques have always been in practice and used by the people. We use these techniques unknowingly many times when we search for documents in a hurry or finding a piece of specific information.

Skimming vs Scanning

The difference between Skimming and Scanning is that both are reading techniques but used for different purposes. Skimming is a process of reading to get a surface-level understanding of the concept. Whereas scanning is a reading method used to look for specific information.

Skimming is a fast reading technique to quickly know the plot of the text. With fewer time readers can read more text using the skimming technique. Most of the time it is used to eye on article’s main points, quickly decide on books to understand whether it’s worth reading and so on.

Scanning is a reading technique that used to look for a specific piece of information or particular a word in context. When we want to look for a cricket match score in the newspaper, to find a particular name or phone number and to find the price of your favourite dish on the menu so on.


Comparison Table Between Skimming and Scanning (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonSkimmingScanning
ObjectiveA quick read through to get a bird’s eye view of the content.Thorough lookout for specific information.
PurposeIt gives an idea of what is a full text aboutIt helps to find specific information in the text.
TechniqueIt includes reading, introduction, conclusion, headings and subheadingsIt is looking over the whole text to find particular information.
BenefitsA reader can read the maximum text in a limited periodTo find the required information
UsageTo decide whether to read fully or not which they are not familiar with.More concerned with the form of the word because they know what the are looking for


What is Skimming?

Skimming is a reading technique which helps to quickly gaze through to understand the concept. Skimming technique is considered fastest. Most of the time it’s used to eye on articles main points, quickly decide on books to understand whether it’s worth reading and so on.

It’s useful to a detailed reading of the book or content at a quick pace. When we skim there may be chances that we may miss out on important information.

Most of the people use skimming when they want to save time or to get a general idea about chapter, article or a newspaper for their preliminary research. With skimming, reader mainly reads the introduction, conclusion, topic sentence, headings, subheadings, bold words, dates etc.  

Skimming is always faster than normal reading, A skimmer does not give equal attention to everything. In a certain situation, we should slow down while reading such as

  1. When you read the Introduction and conclusion
  2. When you read heading, subheading and topic sentences
  3. When you find an unfamiliar or a difficult word
  4. When the concept is complicated

There are three types of Skimming such as Preview, Overview and Review.

Preview Skimming is used to selecting a book, finding appropriate material or chapters to use in research or survey. Overview Skimming is used to read material more thoroughly than preview reading as we don’t wish to read again. Review Skimming is used to read again which we have read once to get ideas and more details about the concept. 


What is Scanning?

Scanning, as the name implies is a technique used to thoroughly read through an article or any book to identify particular information. A text can be structured differently.

The text can be structured alphabetically, as in the dictionary or encyclopedia. The information arranged by time or numerical order is called chronological. The material or information can be also arranged in non-alphabetic order like TV programs so on. Some information or material can be arranged by category such as entertainment, finance, economics, or social so on.

Using hands or fingers while scanning helps to focus on the material the information we are looking for. Keep the keyword in mind while scanning and look for outer or related words while using hand.

Scanning is not substituting for reading, the people who only choose to scan may end up in a problem. If they miss a single word it may change whole passage meaning. Through scanning, we learn a piece of information not the concept of article or document.

When we use scanning there is purpose and question in mind has an answer through scanning. Once we find the information that we are looking for we will stop reading.

Main Differences Between Skimming and Scanning

  1. The main difference between Skimming and Scanning is, the former is a quick read through to know what the plot is, while scanning is a method to investigate a particular context.
  2. Skimming gives the idea of what is a full text about and Scanning helps to find specific information in the text.
  3. Skimming includes reading the main parts quickly; introduction, conclusion, headings, and subheadings. While Scanning is looking over the whole text or a particular part to find specific information.
  4. Using the Skimming technique, a reader can read the maximum text in a limited period and Scanning is used to find required data.
  5. Skimming is a technique helps to know a lot of information in a shorter period while scanning gives limited but concrete information.



Skimming and Scanning are two techniques in reading. Mostly both are used in research work. It helps save a lot of time reading a lot of information. It also helps to improve the speed of reading. Once we are done with skimming a material or a document it is easy to scan for particular information in that material or document.

Skimming is mostly used in selecting appropriate for research. Scanning helps to find specific information. Before we start scanning, it is imperative to know how the structure of the document is. Using these techniques for specific needs, give apt results.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/395451
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10862967209547021
  3. https://online-journal.unja.ac.id/irje/article/view/4338
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