Definition of Skimming

Skimming is a reading technique meant to look for main or general ideas in a text, without going into detailed and exhaustive reading. In skimming, a reader reads only important information, but not everything. This technique works effectively in non-fiction materials, newspapers, and long novels.

To get a gist of the text, a skimmer reads the introductory paragraph, the topic sentences of paragraphs, and notices pictures, graphs, charts, titles, headings, subheadings, italicized and boldface words, and their illustrations, and makes a mental picture of the text after viewing this information. He then transforms this picture into a summary.

Examples of Skimming in Literature

Example #1: Hamlet Globe to Globe (By Dominic Dromgoole)

” ‘It began, we are told, as a whim lubricated by strong drink. In 2012, the management of Shakespeare’s Globe — …’ A young person who refuses to make his peace with the sly criminal who has ‘popped in between the election and my hopes.’ What better hero for our times?”

Skimming Description: The management of Shakespeare’s Globe planned to take exciting new initiatives in 2012. The theater’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole took the tragedy of Hamlet to every country. The book “Hamlet Globe to Globe” highlights the venture and presents its details in a succinct manner. Dromgoole not only keeps his audience engaged in London theater, but he also tours them around the world. His touring idea is wonderful for the promotion of the play “Hamlet,” because of the way a traveling company features the whole play, its actors, their arrival at Elsinore and meeting with Prince Hamlet.

The book sheds light on the Globe Company and its journey to new destinations. The purpose is not to incite the issue of moral crises and murder confessions, but to celebrate a question of social and psychological evils. They not only visit remote countries, but also the most advanced and urban industrial countries. Nonetheless, due to worse global political and social problems over the past two years, Hamlet’s story is not taken to the countries suffering from civil wars and internal strife. It is also that the story seems directly relevant to the common political scenario prevalent in the world.

Example #2: Sense and Sensibility (By Jane Austen)

“The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex… bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life.”

Skimming Description of the First chapter: The Dashwood family settles in Sussex for too long, and has a large estate. The late owner of the estate leaves everything for his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood and his family. Mr. Henry Dashwood has one son, John from his former marriage and three daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret from his current wife. John is lucky to have inherited wealth from his mother’s side, too. In his will, old Dashwood leaves everything for Henry’s son, but nothing for his wife and daughters. John promises his dying father to take care of his step-mother and sisters. But, in fact, John is selfish and cold-hearted man who marries a selfish woman.

After Henry’s death, without informing her mother-in-law, John’s wife steps into her house to take control.  Mrs. Dashwood feels her behavior so ungracious, but her elder daughter Elinor suggests her mother to avoid any conflict with John. Elinor has good understanding, while Marianne is sensible, amiable, and prudent. Margaret, on the other hand, is a well-disposed and good-humored girl.

Example #3: The Chimney Sweeper: A Little Black Thing Among the Snow (By William Blake)

“A little black thing among the snow
Who make up a heaven of our misery.”

Skimming Description: The speaker sees a little black child working as a chimney sweeper who is crying among the snow. He asks him about his parents and child tells him they have gone to church to praise God for his condition. Since he seems them happy and does not want to do this terrible job, his parents force him to do this job, it makes him cry. The child holds government, church, and his parents responsible for his suffering and miserable life.

Function of Skimming

The function of using skimming technique is to get an overview of a text and get main points. Skimmers move quickly through texts, ignoring and skipping paragraphs, sentences, and words to gather necessary information without wasting their time. The major function of skimming technique is to gather the gist of a text.

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