There are many purposes for reading a text or passage. Sometimes, you need to read the text for detail-to gain all of the information necessary. An example of a time when you need to read for detail is when you are reading a process essay or a recipe. In an essay that describes a step-by-step process, you need to pay attention to the details.
There are other times when you do not need to read for details. Sometimes, you just need to get a sense of the main points of a text. An example would be when you are reading a news article to find out a specific piece of information, such as did Congress impeach President Trump. If you only care about the answer to that question, and are not interested in the details, you could skim the article.
Skimming is a process of reading a passage and only looking for the main points or important information. When skimming, a reader does not read every word of a text. Instead, the reader focuses on the introduction and main points. The reader is looking for the main idea, or thesis, and the key details.
Skimming can be used for non-fiction articles and texts, but also can be used when reading long novels that have dense descriptions. When skimming, it is useful for the reader to look at charts, pictures, tables, etc. in addition to reading for the main idea and key details in the introduction and body paragraphs.
Jane Austen is a writer who enjoys including lengthy descriptions of places and people in her novels. Her purpose, often, is to poke fun at English society and social customs of her time. However, readers today may not be interested in those descriptions. This portion of the novel where Austen describes the invitation to dinner for Mr. Bingley is the type of passage you might skim:
An invitation to dinner was soon afterwards dispatched; and already had Mrs. Bennet planned the courses that were to do credit to her housekeeping, when an answer arrived which deferred it all. Mr. Bingley was obliged to be in town the following day, and, consequently, unable to accept the honour of their invitation, etc. Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted. She could not imagine what business he could have in town so soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear that he might be always flying about from one place to another, and never settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears a little by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a large party for the ball; and a report soon followed that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the assembly. The girls grieved over such a number of ladies, but were comforted the day before the ball by hearing, that instead of twelve he brought only six with him from London-his five sisters and a cousin. And when the party entered the assembly room it consisted of only five altogether-Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man.
Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud; to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.
Literary Terms Examples