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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Skimming and scanning


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Skimming is a reading skill you need to learn at university to get a quick understanding of what a resource is about.

What is skimming

Skimming is a reading skill that helps you focus on the main idea of a text instead of the details. To skim, read the introduction, abstract, chapter summaries, first and last sentence of a paragraph and bold words.


Scanning is a reading skill you need to learn at university to find specific details without reading the entire text.

What is scanning

Scanning is reading a text quickly in order to find specific information such as dates, names and locations. Looking at numbers, bold words, quotation marks, abbreviations and symbols can help you with scanning.

Skim and scan for main ideas and details.

Image of book explaining to read headings and introduction, 
											 scan topic sentences of paragraphs,read subheadings, final paragraph 
											 and conclusion

Image of student reading highlighting that they need to skim for important and 
							 repeated words, linking words, names and numbers

Headings: The heading of the text.

Introduction: This is the introduction of the text. It introduces the topic.

Topic sentence: Usually first. Read the first line of the topic sentence to get an idea of what the topic is about. The rest of the text is the body text, which sometimes contains subheadings of the subject being discussed.

Final paragraph: This is the final paragraph. Always read the final paragraph.

Conclusion: The conclusion of the text.

Skim and scan in order to pick up:

  • important key words
  • repeated key words
  • linking words
  • names (capital letters)
  • numbers

Skimming activity

Skimming & scanning activity

What's next... Strategies for skimming and scanning