How To Scan (Read) Non-Fiction

How To Scan (Read) Non-Fiction Materials/Books For Rapid Reading
Women Reading At Counter

How To Scan (Read) Non-Fiction Materials/Books For Rapid Reading

Most people do some daily reading. People read for three different reasons:

  • For entertainment.
  • To gather information.
  • To further one’s knowledge on a subject.

Since most people read at an average speed of 250 words per minute, an average page in a book/document would take 1-2 minutes to read. If, however, a student can double this rate to 500 words per minute, he could zip through an entire book content in half the time. Speed-reading skill, therefore, makes a student more efficient as the time saved could be allotted to other areas of life – sports, family, dates, etc. In rapid reading a non-fiction book, these steps should be applied:

Create a conducive environment

  • Find an environment which minimizes external distractions, as it leads to poor concentration. Concentration is usually best in the mornings.
  • Sit upright and clear your mind as you get ready to read.

Timing

  • It’s normal that people get the most excitement from their book within the first few days of reading it, so plan your reading for when you have the most energy and enthusiasm.
  •  Plan to finish the book within two weeks as people who linger beyond this rarely finish it.

Exercise your eyes

Now get your get your eyes used to see words at a much faster rate than you usually do to:

  • Spend about 5 minutes looking at words 2-3 times faster than you’d normally read them.
  • Use your index finger to guide your eyes as they fly across each line of words from left to right and top to bottom.
  • For now, do not worry about comprehension as this is a speed drill preparatory to reading and will pay off when applied to reading.
  • Plan to take short breaks, every 30 minutes or more.  Breaks could be as simple as either looking away from the page, blinking a few times, taking a sip of water or a short walk.

Because after 30 minutes of straight reading, the eyes and mind begin to slow down and wander.

Preview The Material/Book

As one usually does something better and quicker when doing it for the second or more time, so it is with reading. The first exposure to doing things require the most time and care. Given this, a student needs to give himself a feel of the material by previewing it:

Read the Abstract

If an abstract is available, read it. The abstract is short and compact summary and will provide key insights into the purpose, main points, method, findings, and conclusions. Then read the summary, if there is one.

READ the summary

  • If a nonfiction book summary (different from a an academic book report) is available read it to see what others thought was important, then Scan the reading materials.

Scan the reading materials

  • Skim the introductory, concluding, and or summary paragraphs to get a big picture understanding.
  • Scan the text from beginning to end while paying special attention to headings, subheadings, things in bold or large font and bullet points.
  • Identify transition sentences, examine images or graphs, and note the structure of the text.
  • Read the front and back cover, table of contents and inside flaps.

Strategic Approach

Strategically approach reading to ingest the material efficiently:

  • First, think of what you want to learn by reading the material? Write down some questions to be answered by the end.
  • From the preview, determine the author’s aim in writing the material.
  • Write your own goal. If your goal is more limited in scope than the author’s, find and read the pertinent sections only.
  • Since you are reading a nonfiction book, plan to read certain sections more slowly and carefully than you’d read a work of fiction

Don’t Read Words Singly

  • With the eye being able to span about 1.5 inches (4-5 words) at a time, relaxing your face and expanding your gaze helps you see blocks of words, instead of individual words as distinct units.
  • With good practice, your eyes begin to skip increasingly faster across the page.
  • On nearing the end of a line, allow your peripheral vision to see the last set of words so you can quickly scan across and down into the next line.
  • Do not sub-vocalize – the habit of pronouncing each word in your head as you read it and ‘hearing’ the word in your mind, takes more time than is necessary  and so slows you down
  • Avoid regressing while reading as it makes you lose the flow and structure of the text, thereby decreasing not just speed but comprehension, also, one re-reads when required only.
  • Check regression by using a pointer – your finger, pen or pencil while reading.
  • Note however that when using a pointer to read, the speed at which you read largely depends on the speed at which you move the pointer.

Don’t Read Every Section

  • Unless you’re reading something extremely important, skip the sections that aren’t relevant to your purpose.
  • Reading selectively, digesting only the main points of many texts.

Write A Summary.

  • When you finish reading, start writing the review. Summarize what you read then answer the questions written down before you started reading.
  •  If after the exercise you learn what you were hoping to learn, use some minutes to think and synthesize the information. Write down what you learned for later recall.

Create a mind map

  •   Talk about what you’ve read as it helps to internalize the stuff, enabling you to do and benefit from what you’ve learned.
  • Keep track of main ideas.
  • Take notes in a format that suits the way your mind processes information – in pictures, images, sounds, colors, events, etc.
  • Flip through the pages once more and jot down any other tasks/ideas that come up.

Once a reader attains the skill of speed-reading non-fiction materials or books, speed reading is adaptable to other reading materials like newspapers, letters, e-mails, proposals, periodicals, and reports.

Related References

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