Reading strategies are cognitive and metacognitive actions that learners employ when reading to help them construct meaning. The strategies are often classified as behaviours devised to help readers before, during and after reading a text. As such, it is crucial for them to be aware of these strategies and build upon them over time as the text becomes more complex.
Skimming and scanning are the two most commonly used strategies for reading in the first and second languages. These speed reading approaches require specific steps when one needs to cover an extensive amount of reading material. When we speed-read, the objective is not to gain a complete understanding of the arguments in the text, but simply to determine what it is about.
Skimming is used to have an overview of the content. It requires a greater degree of reading and word recognition skills as it involves a more thorough understanding of the text, while scanning is used to locate specific facts or information in a text. In this section, we will discuss the strategies and techniques to skim and scan a reading text.
When students become more confident with their ability to read in English, they can learn to approach academic texts with different reading strategies and skills. The strategies and skills used will also depend on the purpose and intent for reading. The more students are encouraged to approach a text by first using skimming or scanning techniques, the sooner they will begin to realise that they do not have to read and understand every word in the text. This is crucial for slow readers who are ‘text-bound’ and think that they have to work rigorously through every word in order to understand a text.