How to skim the literature?

Are you done with scanning literature for your research paper? If yes, then the next step would be to skim the identified works to decide what materials you will use. The term skimming refers to the act of identifying the important ideas contained in a text. Unlike scanning which helps you identify potential information to include in your study, skimming helps in selecting the best of all potential information.

Below are two standards that guide you in conducting the literature skim:

  • Will this work be included or excluded from the study?
  • If included, what in this work is useful?

Follow two techniques of skimming the literature. Firstly, examine and review the table of contents to locate specific matter related to the chosen research topic and secondly skim do a quick read of those sections, chapters or sub-chapters to decide whether that information fits with the problem statement. Skimming helps you identify, organize and catalogue the specific material for review.

Skimming may vary from very general skimming where only the basic ideas are understood to closer skimming where a greater amount of information is figured out. It is generally used for checking whether a particular article is of interest in your research. Researchers often skim when they have lots of matter to read within a limited period of time. Different doctoral scholars use different strategies when skipping. Some of them read the first and last paragraphs using headings and summaries as they move down the page while others read the title, subtitles, sub-headings and illustrations. Skimming works well when one wants to find dates, names and places within a text.


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