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COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUES- I ENGLISH READING SKILLS 20. SKIMMING AND SCANNING REFERENCE READING After learning about how to get the most out of our reading in the previous lesson, let us now learn about one of the most helpful techniques of research, that is Skimming and Scanning.

20.0 Objectives By the end of this lesson you will: i. ii.

skim and scan reading material for information recognize and use appropriate discourse markers in written text

20.1 Introduction We have already learnt that people read for many different purposes. Sometimes we may need to read just a few key words to help us with a task like reading directions on the highway when we are driving from one city to the other. At other times we need to know more than just a few keywords – like when we want to find out what topics will be covered in a particular course we plan to take. And yet there are times we need to read every word in the text – like a legal document or our textbook before our exams. Good readers use different skills when reading to complete different tasks. In this lesson you will learn the skill of skimming and scanning the text, and will also review the strategy of identifying and using appropriate discourse markers.

20.2 Skimming


Skimming and Scanning are reading methods which enable you to find facts quickly. They are two of the most important and useful research techniques you will use. These techniques assist you, the reader, in getting specific information from the text. 20.2.1 Skimming


Think about an old story that you may remember being told when you were small. You can probably remember the story of the crow and the fox. Once, a crow found a piece of bread. He was sitting on a branch of a tree when a hungry fox passed by. When the fox saw the piece of bread, he tricked the crow and ended up getting the piece of bread. You have just heard the main idea of the story. No details have been given. Yet, you know the basic story line. We have just skimmed the story for you. Skimming refers to the process of reading only main ideas within a passage to get an overall impression of the content of a reading selection. There are very specific steps to skimming. These steps are as follows: How to Skim: 1. Read the title. 2. Turn to the index (if there is one) or to the table of contents. Look for headings related to your topic or questions about your topic. (Jot down page numbers of headings that seem useful. Go to those pages listed and SKIM them to see if there is appropriate information) 3. Read the introduction or the first paragraph. (FIRST and LAST sentences are usually the most important.) 4. Read the first sentence of every other paragraph. 5. Read main titles and subtitles--look for specific names, dates, lists, etc. in each paragraph. 6. Notice all illustrations, pictures, charts, tables, graphs, etc. 7. Pay attention to italicized or boldface words or phrases. 8. Read the summary or last paragraph. 9. Read the questions at the end of each paragraph/chapter. Always know why you are skimming the material and what you are looking for. Do Not Read Every Word! 20.2.2 Scanning Scanning is a reading technique to be used when you want to find specific information quickly. In scanning you have a question in your mind and you read a passage only to find the answer, ignoring unrelated information. Think about situations where you may need to scan material. You may scan the newspaper to get an update on the latest news on sports, or to find a classified advertisement on the job of your dreams! You may also need to scan the dictionary to find the meaning of a particular word that you are having trouble with. How to Scan: 1. State the specific information you are


looking for.

2. Try to anticipate how the answer will appear and what clues you might use to help you locate the answer. For example, if you were looking for a certain date, you would quickly read the paragraph looking only for numbers. 3. Use headings and any other aids that will help you identify which sections might contain the information you are looking for. 4. Selectively read and skip through sections of the passage.

20.3 Discourse Markers You learnt about discourse markers in Lesson Three of Unit Three. Let us quickly review what we learnt about discourse markers. Discourse markers are also tools that are used when speaking and writing in order to make the message meaningful. Texts usually contain words that indicate relationships between and among ideas. Such words include enumerators: in the first place, secondly, in the third place; chronological markers: first, then; contrast indicators: however, on the other hand; summarizers: to sum up, finally, and so on. These discourse markers help you anticipate what might follow. For instance, if you see the adverb on the other hand you can expect one or more opposing arguments. We can see that there are different functions and uses of discourse markers: • • • •

To 'signpost' (signal) logical relationships and sequences - to point out how bits of what we say and write relate to each other. To 'manage' conversations - to negotiate who speaks and when, to monitor and express involvement in the topic. To influence how the listeners or readers react. To express our attitude to what we say and write. There are several different classifications for the meaning and functions of discourse markers, though the most often referred to are as follows:

• • • •

Adversative - The information in the second sentence qualifies the information in the first. Additive - To present additional information. Temporal (Time Sequence) - When the events in the text are related in terms of the time of the occurrence. Causal - The relationship highlighted here is one of cause and effect. Given below is the table that you saw in Unit Three. It gives examples of discourse markers based on their function.


TABLE: Examples of Discourse Markers (Categorized by Function) ADDITIVE




Those words that Those words that tell Those words that Those words that give us an idea of us that we are adding tell us that the next tell us that the when the more information words will give us words that follow occurrence took information that has tell us of something place an opposite idea that happened as a from the one just result of the presented occurrence that was just described






even so

as a result



on the other hand







as well (as)












in addition to




that is

in spite of

in any case


for example

despite this

as a matter of fact



on the contrary

for this reason

at the same time



on account of


for instance

at least



for this purpose in fact

when just

Self-Check Questions Answer True or False 1. Skimming and Scanning are reading techniques which enable you to find facts quickly. 2. Reading the first and the last sentence of each paragraph is not a good habit while skimming. 3. Boldface and italicized text can be ignored. 4. Read the summary or the last paragraph while skimming. 5. Headings and numbers do not assist in scanning. Fill in the Blanks 4

6. Skimming refers to the process of reading only the ________ within a passage. 7. Discourse markers are ______ that are used when speaking or writing in order to make the message _______. 8. ‘In the first place’, ‘secondly’, ‘thirdly’ are examples of __________. 9. ‘To sum up’, ‘finally’ are examples of _________. 10. ‘However’, ‘on the other hand’ are examples of __________. 11. Discourse Markers are classified according to Function into _________, __________, __________ and __________ categories.

20.4 Summing Up In this lesson, you learnt about skimming, scanning and reviewed what you had previously learnt about discourse markers. You learnt that: •

• •

Skimming and scanning assists the reader in getting specific information from the text. Skimming is reading quickly to get the general idea or gist of a section. Scanning is reading quickly to locate specific information. There are very specific ways to skim and scan material for information. You have learnt the steps to effectively skim and scan text material. Discourse markers are keys to understanding printed matter. You can use them to get clues about the information that follow them.

20.5 Answers to Self-Check Questions 1. True 2. False 3. False 4. True 5. False 6. main ideas 7. tools, meaningful 8. enumerators 9. summarizers 10. contrast indicators 11. additive, adversative, causal, temporal

20.6 References 1. Broukal, Milada. Weaving It Together. Massachusetts: Heinle & Heinle Publishers A Division of Wadsworth, Inc., 1994. 2. Vacca, Richard T, and Jo Anne L Vacca. Content Area Reading. United States of America: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc., 1999.


3. Ferreira, Linda A. Beginnings 1. United States of America: Newbury House Publishers, Inc.,1985. 4. Nagaraj, Dr. Geetha. Comprehend & Compose. New Delhi: Foundation Books, 2003.

20.7 Glossary • • • • • • • • • •


Boldface: used in printing to make letters darker and thicker for emphasis Discourse Marker: Transitional word that shows connection between events and ideas Heading: title, caption Index: comes at the end of the book listing important words or topics alphabetically Italicize: to print a word, letter, or document in italics, or change words to an italic font Scanning: a reading technique that is used when we want to find specific information quickly Skimming: process of reading only main ideas within a passage to get an overall impression of the content of a reading selection Sub-heading: subtitle or title that indicates a topic that comes within a bigger topic Summary: outline or review Table of Contents: comes at the beginning of the book and lists chapters or topics covered in the book