Look at the big picture first.
When reading new, unfamiliar material, do not leap directly into it. You can increase your comprehension and retention if you scan the material first.
Skim headings, subheadings, photo captions, and any available summaries.
Sense how the author has organized the key points. With reports and articles, read the first sentence of each paragraph, with books, glance at the table of contents, and chapter introductions. Scan the initial and concluding paragraphs of each section.
All this previewing will help anchor in your mind what you then read.
However, speed-reading doesn’t work if you need to really get to grips with the content of a piece of writing. So much of what’s significant about reading isn’t just about processing words.
Learn to pace your reading as per your purpose:
- Read very fast if you’re looking only for a specific piece of information—skimming over revision notes before an exam.
- Skim over text rapidly if you’re trying to get just general idea without worrying about details, like scanning a news article.
- Read at a moderate pace if you want to comprehend and retain what you are reading. The more difficult the text, the slower you’ll read. Some texts will require rereading.
- Read very slowly if you’re probing a text or soaking up its substance. When you just want to sit down and enjoy a good book, what’s the point in rushing anyway? After all, reading is about exploration, appreciating the beauty of a well-crafted sentence, thinking deeply, and following your imagination. Refer to Mortimer Adler’s guide to intelligent reading, How to Read a Book (1972; my summary.)
Idea for Impact: Reading is a skill, and, like any other skill, it’s worth your time to take, master, and enjoy. Skimming will help you cope with the overwhelming amount of text you’ll have to read in this day and age.