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How to skim read a book

This article is a short introduction into how to skim read a book or other academic source.

Skim reading is also known as selective reading and means that you do not read a book from cover to cover but select the bits that you need to read in order to find particular information or to judge whether or not the text is suitable for your purpose.

To skim read a book, start with the front and back covers.

The book title and subtitle will obviously tell you the subject matter contained in the book, while the back cover blurb will usually indicate the level of student at whom the book is aimed and more detail about what is covered in the book.

Next, look at the contents page. If you do not find what you are looking for here, try the index.

Next you can start on the chapters. Perhaps from your check on the contents and index you will have decided that only one or two chapters are worthy of your time and attention.

Read the first and last paragraphs of each of the chapters that interest you.

This is where the main ideas and conclusions will usually be found.

If there is a summary at the end of each chapter read this too.

At this point you should have got a great deal of useful information out of a relatively small amount of reading.

You will have gathered the main points and ignored the supporting facts and arguments that are often contained in the body of each paragraph.

Sometimes, of course, it will be necessary for you to read the whole thing to find these supporting facts but you will often find that skimming will produce sufficient information and save you spending hours reading a lot of detail.

Alternatively, it can prove to you whether or not it will be worth your investing the time needed to read the whole text.

It is useful to make brief notes as you skim read a text as it is easy to forget information acquired at this speed.

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