Difference between Skimming and Scanning

Key Difference: Skimming and scanning are two different techniques for fast reading. Skimming is all about reading the article in order to get the general idea of it. On the other way, scanning is about locating a specific text or phrase in a document.

Reading is often treated as a technique. People read an article, book, etc, in order to gain some information or knowledge. Many times, one needs to read at a faster rate due to various reasons like lack of time, etc.

Skimming and scanning are two such fast reading techniques adopted by a reader.  Skimming often refers to the way in which one reads at a faster rate to gain the general idea about the text. It does not involve a thorough reading and understanding. However, it often depends upon the skills of a reader to understand the text quickly.  Generally, a reader quickly reads all the words or the text that seems to be important and then tries to gain the general idea about the document. At times, when time is a constraint, skimming is achieved by reading that text only which is considered to be relevant. For example, one may read only the topics.

On the other hand, scanning generally refers to that technique when one looks into the document for searching some specific text. One does not need to read the document fully. One requires the skill of pattern recognition for a speedy scanning. Many people use it in day to day life – while searching a particular phone number in phone directory, etc.


Skimming is about going through the whole article, whereas scanning is just finding out the specific text or pattern. Therefore, scanning requires a higher understanding of word recognition than compared to scanning. Unlike skimming, in scanning the reader is already aware of the text he wants to search in the document. However, in skimming, the reader usually has no or little idea about the document. Skimming is more about reading and understanding, whereas scanning is all about searching or finding. Therefore, both are different from each other.

Comparison between Skimming and Scanning:





A technique for fast reading. A reader reads the article in order to get the general idea of it.

A technique in which a reader tries to search a particular text or word in the document


  • Ability to go through the article quickly
  • Ability to understand what can be relevant and not in reading
  • Ability to find quickly
  • Use of fingers can be effective while looking for a  specific information
  • Focus on key words


  • Generally to get the general idea of an article
  • To sample a book before actually purchasing it
  • Generally to search a telephone number from a list
  • To find a particular quotation in a book


  • Read the title carefully
  • First paragraph and introduction need to be read carefully
  • Emphasis on the reading of first sentence of every paragraph
  • Heading and sub headings should be read
  • Pictures, charts or graphs should be noticed
  • Words or phrase that are italicized or boldface must be noticed
  • Summary or last paragraph is important to understand the conclusion
  • Reader must be clearly aware of the specific information that needs to be searched in the document
  • Clues must be used to find the answer – like if one is searching for a date, then only numbers should be looked for
  • Headings can be helpful in suggesting the location of the desired information
  • One should be careful in reading and skipping the sections of the passage


Image Courtesy: slideshare.net, how-to-study.com

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That was very helpful. However, it was quite repetitive.

its really Helpful

Thanks for sharing.

Thanks. That's really helpful.

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