Difference Between Skimming and Scanning

Reading is a technical process of perceiving and understanding. It helps a person improve their learning capacity and develop knowledge, improve language performance and build vocabulary.


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

Key Takeaways

  1. Skimming is a reading technique where the reader quickly goes through a text to grasp its main ideas or general overview without focusing on details.
  2. Scanning is a reading method where the reader searches for specific information within a text, such as keywords, facts, or figures, without reading the entire content.
  3. Skimming aims to quickly understand the overall content while scanning targets specific details or information within the text.

Skimming vs Scanning

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

Skimming vs Scanning

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Skimming is a fast reading technique to know the text’s plot quickly. With less time, readers can read more text using the skimming process.

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


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonSkimmingScanning
ObjectiveA quick read-through to get a bird’s eye view of the content.Careful 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 specific information.
BenefitsA reader can read the maximum text in a limited periodTo find the required information
UsageTo decide whether to read thoroughly which they are unfamiliar with.They are more concerned with the form of the word because they know what they are looking for


What is Skimming?

Skimming is a reading technique which helps to gaze through to understand the concept quickly. The skimming approach is considered the fastest.

Most people use skimming to save time or get a general idea about a chapter, article or newspaper for their preliminary research.

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

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

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

Preview Skimming is used to select a book and find appropriate material or chapters for research or survey. Overview Skimming is used to read material more thoroughly than preview reading as we don’t wish to read it again.


What is Scanning?

Scanning, as the name implies, is a technique used to thoroughly read through an article or any book to identify specific 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 with a problem. If they miss a single word, it may change the whole passage’s meaning.

When we use scanning, the purpose and question in mind have an answer through scanning. Once we find the information we seek, we will stop reading.

scanning book

Main Differences Between Skimming and Scanning

  1. The main difference between Skimming and Scanning is that the former is a quick read-through to know the plot, 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.

  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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