The four types of reading

In the age of the Internet and information overload, what to read and what not to read is a big question and some clarity about it is extremely crucial. Reading techniques help in dealing with such situations.

It is pertinent to know WHY one is reading before going into the details of HOW (Reading Techniques). Is the target common, is it specific? Once this question is answered, only then the reading strategies can be decided for particular cases.

There are four main reading techniques which are used for specific situations:

1. Scanning is reading with a specific purpose in mind for specific information. When one reads an entire text/document quickly while looking for specific information, it is called scanning. For example: Going through an entire newspaper and looking for specific news related to the India-Pakistan cricket match. You scanned to get specific information about Delhi University admissions and cut-offs.

2. Skimming is speed reading for cursory overview for general information. Going through an entire newspaper quickly through the headlines is an example of skimming. Going through a data-table quickly to elicit an overall idea of the topic on which data is presented is an example of a skimming technique of reading. Do not expect a deep comprehension of the written text after skimming. Reading only the headings of chapters is skimming.

3. Intensive reading is of a specific written piece for a specific purpose. It is going into the minutest details of a particular word/phrase/line/para, etc. For example, 

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep 

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep"

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

To answer a question like, ‘what is the meaning of woods’ in the poem, one will adopt the intensive reading technique.

Intensive reading is very crucial for language learners as they pick up vocabulary, focus on structure and syntax while doing intensive reading.

4. Extensive reading is a kind of general reading for general information. Generally, this technique is used for pleasure reading, like reading a novel for pleasure. One does not mind certain difficult terms or expressions and goes on without stopping for their clarification until they become a hindrance in overall understanding. For example, if one is asked to read a chapter before discussing it in class, one goes for extensive reading to get a general idea of the piece. Unlike intensive reading which is for a specific purpose, it is for a generalized understanding of a piece of writing. For example, while doing an unseen passage for comprehension, one does extensive and intensive reading both. For dealing with specific vocabulary related or other specific questions, intensive reading is required, but the initial first reading is taken for the general idea of the passage.

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About Harish Kumar

Harish, a technical core team member at with five year experience in full stack web and mobile development, spends most of his time on coding, reading, analysing and curiously following businesses environments. He is a non-graduate alumni from IIT Roorkee, Computer Science and frequently writes on both technical and business topics.

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The four types of reading

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