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Reading Skills


Reading skills you might find useful are: skimming, scanning, predicting, understanding the organisation of a text, guessing meanings and identifying a writer's attitude and purpose.


Skimming is looking through a text very quickly to understand the main topics and arguments. Read the introduction, headings, first and last sentence of each paragraph, and the conclusion. This will help you read and find information faster.


Scanning is looking for details to answer questions that you have. Use the results of your skimming to find relevant sections, then look quickly through those sections looking for key words that are relevant to your question. This will help you read and find information and quotesfaster.


Predicting is guessing the content of a text based on your knowledge of the subject, the author's area of expertise and opinions, and the context.

Understand the organization of a text

You need to understand the organisation of a text at 2 levels, at the paragraph level and at the whole text level.

The paragraph level means understanding the organisation of the sentences in a paragraph, and the links between them. For example you can draw arrows from words like 'he', 'she', 'they', and 'it', back to the nouns they refer to, like this:

You also need to understand the logic of the paragraph or group of paragraphs, for example by drawing a mind-map of the organisation, with words like 'and', 'but' and 'so' linking the topics and sub-topics.

The whole text level is organised in different ways according to the type of document you are reading, for example a memo might have a situation, problem, suggested solution and a request for action. A report usually has a title page, abstract, table of contents, methodology, findings, conclusions and recommendations sections.

Guessing meanings
Guessing meanings of words and phrases is possible because you know the situation.

Identifying the writer’s attitude
Identifying the writer’s attitude is done by knowing the connotation (a nice or a bad meaning) of the words he uses. It is also important to know if a writer is 'objective' (gives good and bad points) or 'biased' ( gives only good, or only bad points).

For more information, please go to: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/reading.htm#Books