Now that you are familiar with the structure, skim read the abstract, introduction, conclusion, subheadings, and the first sentence of every paragraph (i.e. the topic sentences) to gain an overview of the author's main ideas and arguments, method, theoretical approach, case studies etc. It will help you to decide what is relevant/irrelevant information as you are focused on locating specific material to read more carefully. Skimming also assists you in getting an understanding of the topic of main arguments of the paper that makes a closer reading easier. Therefore it is very helpful when reading particularly complex or dense texts.

Your major purpose in skimming is to find out whether the author is actually discussing matters relevant to your topic and to identify what will be truly useful for you to read intensively. Ask yourself: what precisely is the author talking about? What is the author's position in relation to the topic? Then do the following.

  • Read the introduction intensively to determine the author's purposes - precisely what she/he sets out to do and why. Perhaps the argument to be developed will be mentioned and/or the conclusions reached will be stated. It can also be useful to read the conclusion intensively at this stage. 
  • Read quickly through the sub-division headings trying to work out what might be more or less relevant for your topic.
  • You can now begin to skim read first and/or last sentences in the paragraphs. These are topic sentences that carry the main ideas or generalisations that the author wants to develop. These main ideas are brought forward to support his/her position - the overall thesis being developed.

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