pages or columns.
Disregard the information not related to your purpose, even if it is interesting to you.
If you are scanning narrow columns, for example, those of newspaper width, run your eyes down the center of the column.
Use headings, indentations, and italicized words, since they often give you clues about where the information you are seeking is located.
Try not to fall into the trap of reading every word. If so, stop and start over again, giving yourself a new ‘fix’ on the question you want to answer (p.127).
Yorkey (1970) does not distinguish between skimming and scanning. He assigns two purposes for skimming: “(1) to locate a specific word, fact, or idea quickly; and (2) to get a rapid, general impression of the material” (p. 113). In describing the first kind of skimming, which is usually referred to as scanning nowadays, Yorkey (1970) says, “when you look for a telephone number,…, you are skimming”. He continues, “As you skim your eyes over a page or down a column, keep in mind the specific information you are looking for” (p. 113-114). Reading the second application of skimming, he continues, “For skimming of this kind, you ignore all details and look instead for the main ideas. You use this kind of skimming when you first survey a chapter in a textbook, or when you want to determine whether a article contains new or useful information about a topic you are interested in” (p. 117).
Akbari and Mirhassani (1998), elaborating on the importance of scanning and skimming for Iranian students, contend that “reading a text word for word is a common mistake of almost all Iranian students. They believe that if they miss a word, then their understanding of a text will be defective” (p.54), they also maintain that careful reading of a text in many occasions is nothing more than a waste of time. They give the example of finding the date of Oscar Wilde’s death out of a related passage, claiming that the readers only need to look for key words, here numbers, of course. They explain that a key word may be an adjective, a noun, or a verb, which best suits the readers’ purpose. They define skimming as, “reading quickly in order to get the gist of the text and to spot relevant bits to come back to later. You ignore the details and examples” (p.56).
Smith and Smith (1990) have more elaborated on key words, and have distinguished between key words and key terms. They content that, “sometimes, we are not sure of the exact key word we are looking for. For instance, an example of this is when we are trying to find the date when a man was born or a process was discovered. In situations like this, we cannot expect to have an exact date in our mind we look for the key word. The exact word we called the key word, the type of the word we shall call the key term” (p.57).
Sadeghi and Pourgive (1996) enumerate the usefulness of skimming as, (a) sampling from a long passage to see what the writer is up to, or what major points he’s trying to make, (b) helping in previewing of a chapter to get the main idea(s) in mind before talking the more exhaustive section-by-section study, (c) helping to browse through book selection to decide if they contain what you want, (d) helping to be selective of what and how much to read of newspaper and other journalistic formats (p. 195).
They also recognize the usefulness of scanning as, (a) when the reader knows exactly what type of information he needs but must look through large reference volumes to find it, (b) helping the reader to answer specific questions and refer back to clarify specific points he or she might have missed in an earlier reading (p. 195).
Many authors have recognized the usefulness of skimming and scanning in reading comprehension exam setting such as TOEFL, (Bailey, 1991; Broukal and Nolan-Woods, 1991; Philips, 1989; Gear, 1993; Davy and Davy, 1984).
Bailey et al. ((1991) suggest those who want to take the TOEFL test go through the following essential strategies to improve their reading skills and comprehension:
Skim the passage and the questions.
Read the passage.
And scan to answer questions (p. 215).
They imply that, “we can understand a passage better if we know the general subject it will discuss before we read it” (p. 215).
2.1.7 L1/L2 Reading Strategies
Research in this domain has experienced a drastic increase in the last few decades. A host of scholars have dealt with the issue exclusively in their valuable studies. Sergent W. Keith, Jr. (1990) defines one of the major purposes of his study as “to ascertain if L2 readers in the present study exhibit the same reading behaviors as L1 and /or L2 readers of other languages, thus indicating a single reading process as predicted by Goodman Model” (p.100). As can be noticed here, Keith’s concern includes a comparison of L2 strategies with those of various L1s- hence a wide scope for the study.
A second study to be mentioned here is that of M. Martinez (1998). In this study, he sets one of his objectives as to investigate “…..the specific similarities or differences in the use of these [reading] strategies to maintain meaning within language and levels of abilities” (p.18). martinez’s study is the comparison of the reading habits of English- and Spanish- dominate students.
Thein’s (1995) study is the third to be referred to. Working on a similarities and differences that hold between the native English speakers and ESL students, he realizes that “the reading processes of English speaking and ESL students were similar. Both learned to read from whole to part, constructing their own knowledge through scaffolding” (p. 14).
Porte (1989) also adopted similar objectives in his study of L1 and L2 reading strategies, except that his stance is a general one, i.e., he does not specify any particular language as his primary concern. To conclude, he remarks that “the majority of learners said that they used strategies which were the same as or very similar to, those they had used in their native countries. It also became clear that such behaviors had not been overtly taught by their teachers, but rather had been picked up from other students, or were already being used in other subject areas in the school”. One of the strategies Porte is tracing in his study is that of inferring, i.e., attempting to read between the lines, or what the author does not overtly states, but rather implies. Inference needs prior knowledge (of the world etc.) to unravel what is camouflaged behind the surface string of words. Porte remarks that “…..that [his subjects] inferring strategy was something they already do all the time in their own language” (p.24).
It is interesting to note that studies on this issue all come around similar finding. To continue our survey, it would be better to consider another research conducted by Chen Dexing (1990). Investigating the effects of text structure on the reading comprehension of Chinese readers of English, Dexing hit upon the fact that the readers who “were found to be more confident as readers in their native language, rely more on local strategies when reading in L2” (p. 52). Experiments on adult L2 readers are also present; implying that researchers believe age can act as an extraneous variable that may distort the findings on L1/L2 reading strategies based on younger subjects. A good example of such studies is that of Lung (1992). Inspecting the ways in which L1 and L2 adult readers resorted to reading strategies, he found that “…..adult ESL readers tend to lack in the use of reading strategies, failing to utilize the contextual clues or their background knowledge base” (p. 71). He further maintains that “when adult readers highly competent in L1 reading, read in L2, they become inefficient ‘text-bound’ readers, failing to utilize their effective reading strategies in L1” (P. 73).
Further research reveals that Cook’s (1991) cognitive/metacognitive split does exist in L1 as well, yet Oxford (1992/1993) states that “according to L2 research, successful learners often use metacognitive strategies such as organizing, evaluating, and planning their learning” (p. 227). Use of these behaviors, along with cognitive strategies like analyzing, reasoning, transferring information, taking notes, and summarizing might be considered part of any definition of truly affective learning (Brown, Bransford, Ferrarra & Campione, 1983).
Further support for the idea of the difference between L1 and L2 strategies can be provided from Brown (1987), who maintains that “reading strategies of native speakers typically differ from those of second language learners. Native speakers rely more on semantic than on syntactic cues” (p. 61).
A third study in this respect is that of Li Shuyn (1992), who decided, as went earlier, to investigate the metacognitive strategies Chinese graduate students utilized as they read academic materials in English. Shuyn discovered that “they [students] not only shared the profiled of competent readers in both L1 and L2 reading, such as prediction, visualization, and paraphrasing, but also used some reading strategies that were not deliberately used I their L1 reading, such as translation, attention to subtitles, and attention to connectives” (p.92).
Thus, it could be inferred that L2 reading strategies are partly identical to those of L1, and partly unique. For example, rarely does an L1 reader use a dictionary very often to comprehend a text of everyday language.
2.1.8 Learner Strategy Training
Researchers have naturally taken an interest in language learning strategies teachability. Some have concentrated on training just one or two strategies, while others have investigated the teaching of many strategies at once. Recently, either researchers or teachers have tried to embed actual strategy practice into their learning