Having learned what the text is about and how it is organised, you may decide not to read it in depth but to just record some of the very specific information it contains. One reason for doing this may be because you are already familiar with the theme of the text and just need some details. In order to find this specific information, you need to scan the text.
Scanning consists of letting your eyes move quickly through the text until you find what you are looking for. As long as you know how the text is organised, this can be done quickly and without reading every word.
This is a technique many of us use every day. For example, I may scan the telephone directory to find a name. Or when I go to a restaurant, I scan the menu to find the vegetarian options.
Scanning texts is easy if you are familiar with their organisation. For example, I know that the menu of my favourite restaurant lists the main course under the heading ‘Mains’, so I scan this list looking for the word ‘vegetarian’, ‘vegetable’ or simply ‘V’.
In academic texts information is often grouped under headings, so to find a specific detail, you need to first locate the appropriate heading. If there are no headings, remember that the topic sentence of each paragraph is like a heading, as it tells you what the paragraph is about. In a paragraph, details can usually be found in the sentences that follow the topic sentence so this is where you need to look.
When you think you have found the relevant section or paragraph, look for key words or figures.
You will practise this skill in the following activity.
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