Four types of reading can be used for absorbing varying amounts of information. They all have their pros and cons, so it’s essential to know when and how to use each type.

Most of these techniques won’t be used in casual reading, so if that’s what you’re looking for. This article isn’t for you.

As a writer, we often have to do extensive research on topics, and that can mean reading through a lot of academic or research papers depending on what the subject is. These reading methods will help you save time when trying to digest what a large piece of text is saying!

So how do you read?
The best way to start enhancing your reading and note-taking abilities is to understand what level you are on now. Here are some questions to ask yourself to get to know your reading ability:

  • Do you jot down any feelings or thoughts while you’re reading?
  • What do you take notes on?
  • How long does it take you to read?
  • Do you read an article straight through or take breaks?
  • Do you have to go back and reread certain parts?
  • Do you read each word individually, or do you read fast to get the idea of a story?

Don’t worry if you’re not where you think you should be when it comes to reading. Many different types of reading require different approaches. I won’t scan my favourite book to get the gist of it. I will devour the words. I won’t take notes on everything I read, but I will if I want to learn something from it.

Knowing your reading style can help you actively adjust your style to what you’re reading. Recognising which kinds of texts deserve your time and attention in a focused read, and which can be skimmed is vital for a writer on a deadline!

Reading techniques

Scanning is used to get an overview of any given text. You’re looking at the text as a whole. Focusing on the shape, the subject of each section, you are getting a general idea of the topics that are addressed within the body of the text.

If you were to scan this article, for instance, you would see that we focus on personal reading skills and various reading techniques.

By scanning this article, you can find out whether or not the information is going to be useful to you! Scanning can also involve reading the first two or three sentences of each paragraph to get a further idea of what the article is about.

This technique helps you pull specific information out of a text instead of just getting a general idea. A way to skim a text for specific information is to scan the document for a key-word and only read the parts surrounding that key-word.

If you were reading a scientific journal, you could skim for words like research or statistics. Pick words that help you gather useful information.

You can choose any number of words within an article. Just make sure that you’re choosing a word that will help you collect the information that you need from that piece.

This technique helps you boil away the useless parts of an article fairly quickly and helps you get the gist of a piece of work quickly.

Focused Reading
While both scanning and skimming help you get an in-depth understanding of an article focused reading is slightly more suited to this purpose.

Focused reading is a slower reading method that allows you to absorb a material piece by piece.

This naturally allows the reader time for active thinking. Active thinking while reading and gives them time to process the information; this can be enhanced by taking notes or asking and answering questions around the presented material.

Combination Reading
Focused reading is more an intense approach to absorbing material, because of that, it’s better for the reader to only engage in a focused read for short bursts of time.

Your brain can only absorb information to a certain extent. So I recommend using a combination method of scanning skimming and focus reading to get the most out of an article while still protecting your poor brain from a potential headache!

Next time you read an article for research try reading it three times (it’s not as bad as it sounds). First scan the information, get the general idea of what the article contains to make sure it has the information you’re looking for! Then try skimming the article for key-words that you would like to focus on, highlight those sections. Third time around read the highlighted sections using the focused reading method.

Using a combination method will make sure that you get the information that you’re looking for without having to sift through endless prose and irrelevant facts.

I hope this helps you with your researching, and as always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!