Reading Strategies for
Technical and
Professional Documents:
Skimming, Scanning &
Reading-in-Depth
In this lesson you focused on
strategies for reading technical and
professional documents. Throughout
the remainder of this course you will
be reading a number of documents as
you complete the various assignments.
In each case you will need to determine
and use the most appropriate reading
strategy.
Reading technical and professional documents is
very different from reading a novel.
Up to this point, the majority of reading you've
probably done in school has been reading in-depth.
You are given a chapter from a text to read in which
you know you are going to be tested on your ability
to remember all of the details; or you are assigned a
novel to read and you have to create a book report.
At other times, you have been given tasks which are
better served by skimming or scanning.
Unfortunately, a lot of students attack all tasks as
if they are supposed to read in-depth.
3 different reading
strategies:
skimming: “trying to find out what information
might be contained in a document”
scanning: “trying to locate information you know
is contained in a document”
reading-in-depth: “understanding the entire
picture the document is presenting and all of the
supporting details of any position presented”
Check-Up: vocabulary
Match the definition below with the
correct reading strategy.
a.
understanding exactly what the document
says by reading all the details

Correct!!!
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
Sorry...
When you read all the details in a
document so you understand exactly what
the document says that is called readingin-depth. Legal contracts are always
read-in-depth before they are signed.
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Check-Up: vocabulary
Match the definition below with the
correct reading strategy.
b.
reading a bit of the document to see what is in it

Correct!!!
click here

Ooops...
When you read a bit of document in order to
find out what’s in it you are skimming the
document. Most paperwork is skimmed first to
determine what you need to do with the it: read
it more closely, pass it on to someone else, or
throw it in the garbage.
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Check-Up: vocabulary
Match the definition below with the
correct reading strategy.
c.
reading key words in the document to find the
detail you are looking for

Correct!!!
click here

Nope...
When you read key words in a document so you
can find data you know is already there, you are
scanning the document. When you use a
computer manual to determine how to change
your margins, you scan the manual’s index for
“margin”. You know it has to be in there
somewhere, so now you need to find it.
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Decisions, decisions, decisions
Knowing whether to skim, scan or read-in-depth is
critical in the work world.
If you keep in mind the purposes of each, you
should have no problem deciding which is the
appropriate reading strategy.



skimming: trying to find out what is in a
document;
scanning: trying to find something you know is
in a document;
reading-in-depth: knowing all the details
contained in a document
Skimming
“trying to find out what information might
be contained in a document”
achieved by looking for key information




who wrote the information?
what is the topic?
how important is the information to you? to the
sender?
are there any timeline issues?
Generally speaking, most technical and professional
documents are skimmed and if warranted they are
read in-depth possibly at a later time.
There is a great deal of paperwork that will cross
your desk, no matter what technical or professional
field you choose. You simply won't have time to read
every document in-depth.
Fortunately, most business documents follow
predictable formats so with practice you will be able
to skim through the standard ones and locate the
crux of the message quite quickly.
.
Check-Up: Skimming
On the next 5 slides are reading
scenarios. For each situation decide
if skimming is the best reading
strategy. (Select an answer by clicking the
appropriate box.)
Your goal: at least 4 out of 5
correct
Question #1: Skimming?
You are a loans officer for a bank.
A client has just walked in with a
business plan. They want to talk
to you about getting a loan.
Should you skim the plan first?

Wonderful!!!
Keep track of the number of
correct responses for this
section.
click here

Sorry…
You would skim the material to determine what
the venture is and if the plan appears to meet
minimal standards. If it did, you would scan the
various sections and possibly ask the client some
pertinent questions. Afterwards, you would
probably book an appointment for a later date to
review the plan with the client. Naturally, before
the client arrives you would read the plan indepth. Now try the next one.
Question #2: Skimming?
You are a professional forester. You
have received a copy of a report you
and a team of colleagues have been
working on. You respect your
colleagues work, but have some
concerns about the projected expenses
and want to verify the figures.
Should you skim the report first?

Right!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

No...
You would scan the report for the section
you are concerned with. You wouldn't
skim it since you already know what is in
the plan. Before the plan is presented,
you would probably take the time to read
it in-depth to be sure it was coherent and
accurate etc. Now try the next one.
Question #3: Skimming?
You are a social worker who has to
make a presentation on the effects of
gambling in your community. You have
just completed an internet search; 216
articles were found.
Should you skim the list first?

Yes!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

Ooops
Since you have an idea about what you want to
find in the articles you would scan the results
for something which looked promising. You would
only skim the articles if you were doing a search
on a topic you had no background in and were
trying to get some sense of what was available.
You certainly wouldn't read in-depth each of the
216 articles. Now try the next one.
Question #4: Skimming?
You are a mechanical engineer. Your
boss has just completed your third
performance review.
Should you skim the review first?

Great!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

Sorry...
Most people start by scanning the performance
review to find the bottom line: excellent,
satisfactory, poor. After that they tend to read
it in-depth since it is an important document in
their career. Now try the next one.
Question #5: Skimming?
You are a marine biologist at an
aquarium. The forensic scientist has just
sent you a 10 page report outlining the
cause of death of a 5 year old Orca.
Should you skim the report first?

Correct!!!
Write down the number of questions
you answered correctly for the
“skimming” question. Set it aside for
now and continue with the rest of this
activity.
click here

Oops...
You have seen forensic reports before. They
follow predictable patterns and you want to know
first and foremost the cause of death so you
would scan the report for the appropriate
section. You may choose to later read the entire
report in-depth or just skim the document.
Write down the number of questions
you answered correctly for the
“skimming” question. Set it aside for
now and continue with the rest of this
activity.
Scanning
“trying to locate specific information you know is
contained in a document”
achieved by looking for cues

in the labels.
in the headings.

in the text passages.

You will also need to be good at scanning
documents, as there will be times when you know
you've seen a detail and now you need to locate it.
Scanning involves looking for specific sections and
within those sections looking for specific
comments.
One of the most common uses of scanning is in
using indexes to determine if a particular book will
be of any value in your research. With the advent
of the internet, there is so much information at
your fingertips, the problem will be weeding
through it to find what you really need. Therefore,
being able to efficiently scan the results of web
searches is a valuable skill.
Check-Up: Scanning
On the next 5 slides are reading
scenarios. For each situation decide
if scanning is the best reading
strategy. (Select an answer by clicking the
appropriate box.)
Your goal: at least 4 out of 5
correct
Question #1: Scanning?
While in the middle of scanning the
results of an internet search you find an
article which appears to be exactly what
you want.
Should you choose to scan the article?

Terrific!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

Sorry...
Depending upon the length of the article, you
would probably skim it first to see if it meets
your hopeful expectations. If you still felt is was
useful, you would read it in-depth. Now try the
next one.
Question #2: Scanning?
You are a union representative for the
local trade union. You have just
received management's final offer for a
contract settlement.
Would you scan the offer first?

Right-on!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

Ooops....
First, you would scan it for the key issues
because the majority of the offer will be the
same as it was the last time it was presented to
you. Then, since you know how important legal
documents are you would read it in-depth before
responding to it. Now try the next one.
Question #3: Scanning?
You are a nurse who has just come on
duty in the emergency room. You have
15 charts to read before the staff you
are replacing leave for the night.
Should you scan this document first?

Superb!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

No...
You skim the reports to get a feel for
the types of patients currently in your
care, you would go on to scan any of
those charts with particularly critical
patients. You probably would not have
time to read the charts in-depth before
the other staff leave. Now try the next
one.
Question #4: Scanning?
You are a real estate salesperson. You have a
meeting with a client who wants to lease
some commercial space for a new business
venture. You believe you have some suitable
locations they would like to view.
Should you scan the listings first?

Correct!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

Nope.
You scan through the listings looking for suitable
dimensions, locations, features, and costs. Now
try the next one.
Question #5: Scanning?
You are a computer programmer. You've
just received a fax that a specific part of
the software is not working properly.
You need to locate the bug quickly and
put the fix up on the web site as soon as
possible.
Should you scan the program first?

Perfecto!!!
Write down the number of questions you
answered correctly for the “skimming”
question. Set it aside for now and
continue with the rest of this activity.
click here

Ooops...
You scan through the program looking for the
particular area of the program causing the
problem. Skimming would not be appropriate
since you know what's in the program already.
There is certainly no need to read the entire
program code in-depth.
Write down the number of questions you
answered correctly for the “skimming”
question. Set it aside for now and continue
with the rest of this activity.
Reading-in-depth
“understanding the entire picture the document is
presenting and all of the supporting details of any
position presented”
achieved by reading

each word carefully.
all of the tabular data.

all of the appendices.

Check-Up: Reading-indepth
On the next 5 slides are reading
scenarios. For each situation decide
if reading-in-depth is the best reading
strategy. (Select an answer by clicking the
appropriate box.)
Your goal: at least 4 out of 5
correct
Question #1: Reading-indepth?
You’ve been working with a lawyer to
develop a partnership agreement. He
has just sent you the final draft for your
signature.
Should you choose to read the agreement indepth?

Good!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

Sorry...
You should read this agreement in-depth. All
legally binding agreements must be read very
carefully to ensure you understand the
implications of signing the document. Now try
the next one.
Question #2: Reading-indepth?
You’ve just received a bundle of
resumes from applicants hoping to get
the job you just advertised in the paper.
Should you read each of the
resumes in-depth?

Perfecto!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

No...
You should scan these resumes to see
whether each applicant meets your basic
requirements. Any that don’t will be
thrown away. Only those that meet your
minimal standards will get read-in-depth
later. Now try the next one.
Question #3: Reading-indepth?
You have just been handed your “New
Employee’s Manual” by your new boss.
He wants you to “go through it tonight”
for discussion tomorrow. It is 20 pages
long.
Should you read this manual in-depth?

Wonderful!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

Ooops...
Since it is only 20 pages in length, you should
read it in depth. It will make a good impression
on your boss if you are very familiar with the
manual. Now try the next one.
Question #4: Reading-indepth?
You have just been handed your “New
Employee’s Manual” by your new boss. He
wants you to “go through it” tonight for
discussion tomorrow. It is 300 pages long.
Should you read the
manual in-depth?

Yes!!!
Keep track of the number of correct
responses for this section.
click here

Nope...
You should skim the document and then read
what you feel are important sections in-depth.
There are way too many pages for you to read
the entire document in-depth in one night. Now
try the next one.
Question #5: Reading-indepth?
You are a computer programmer.
Yesterday you received an e-mail about
an update for one of the programs you
use daily. You are trying to find the
message amongst the list of messages
in your in-box.
Should you read the list in-depth?

Correct!!!
Write down the number of questions you
answered correctly for the “skimming”
question. Set it aside for now and
continue with the rest of this activity.
click here

Ooops...
You should scan the list for either the subject
or the name of the person who sent you the email. It would be pointless to read each e-mail
listing in-depth.
Write down the number of questions you
answered correctly for the “skimming”
question. Set it aside for now and continue
with the rest of this activity.
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Reading Strategies for Technical and Professional Documents: