Difference Between Skimming and Scanning

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.

Reading practices involve two important techniques; Skimming and Scanning. These two techniques have always been in practice and used by the people.

Skimming vs Scanning

The main 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 vs Scanning

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.

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 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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

scanning book

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.



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.

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.


  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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