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. After skimming, you can decide what is relevant/irrelevant information and focus on locating specific material to read more carefully. Skimming also assists you in getting an understanding of the main arguments that makes a closer reading easier. Therefore it is very helpful when reading particularly complex or dense texts.Take the following steps: 

  • Read the abstract and introduction to determine the author's purpose - what they set out to do and why. Perhaps the argument to be developed will be mentioned and/or the conclusions reached will be stated. Read the conclusion at this stage as well. 
  • Read quickly through the sub-division headings trying to work out what might be more or less relevant for your topic.
  • Next, skim read the first sentence in each paragraph. 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 their position - the overall thesis being developed.

Reading with this strategy will give you an overview of the article's purpose and support, and help you avoid getting lost or overwhelmed by details at this stage. As you skim, keep in mind the questions you've posed, and if and where the article you are reading might answer them. 


Select and study >>


  • ANU Library Academic Skills
  • +61 2 6125 2972
  • Send email