So much to read. So little time.
In today’s world, there is a growing amount of information for us to read and it seems like there is less and less time for us to go through it. So how do we cope with this avalanche of words and remain productive?
There are two main techniques to get information from a document quickly and effectively. If you want to just understand the main thrust of a document, then skimming the document is a useful technique for doing just that.
But what if you actually want to get some meaningful details from a document but don’t have time to read the whole thing? In this scenario, learning how to scan a
document will save you time and effort.
And we don’t mean using an app on your phone to physically scan an image and make a PDF. The technique we are referring to involves learning how to look at
the most important parts of a document so that you know and understand the key
facts, even if you don’t get a chance to read every single word.
Skimming and scanning are two complementary techniques. You will probably find that you use both techniques for the same tasks, and will often find that doing one will help you do the other better.
Here are a few tips to get you started with scanning documents:
The first thing to do is to decide what you are trying to learn from the document. What key facts are you trying to find? Make a list of keywords and phrases that are relevant to what you need. Once you have this list in mind, then you can use that information to separate the wheat from the chaff in the document you are searching through.
- Use the tools in the text
Skim through long passages as well as tables, table-of-contents, indexes, etc., to see if there are relevant passages you can head straight to. Skim through these passages
to try and spot keywords and see if there is anything of relevance. Passages with no relevance can be avoided, saving time and effort.
- Be methodical
Let your eyes move down the page looking for each word and phrase in your list, one at a time. Once one is found, then backup a little bit and start reading slowly and
thoroughly, making sure you understand everything relevant.
- Don’t rush
If you are looking through a document to answer questions, keep in mind that each question provides you with the keywords for your search. As with keywords, remember to only search for the answer to one question at a time. Once a
keyword is found, then read the surrounding passage carefully. Then go back and reread the question to verify that you have the relevant information to answer the question.
One final note: Scanning is a great technique to get specific details from a long text and answer questions quickly, but it can be very taxing and requires focus. It is a very active form of reading, requiring constant attention, and takes practice to develop skill and endurance. It is best performed when you are well-rested and alert, so it is often advantageous to delegate this task, particularly if you are not feeling alert and are distracted by many other tasks – in this instance, please feel free to get in touch with us regarding support with scanning and other tasks!