This level of reading is characterized by its special emphasis on time. At this stage, a student might be allowed a set time, to complete a certain amount of reading. Inspectional reading is the art of skimming systematically the material. Here, one attempts the best and complete reading that is possible given a LIMITED amount of time.
Inspectional Reading itself comprises of two stages:
1. Systematic Skimming; and
2. Superficial Reading.
This post will review the first stage of Inspectional Reading, namely Systematic Skimming. Here, the main purpose of Systematic Skimming is to allow us to understand the main contents and purpose of the book. By doing so, we can discover whether the book requires a more careful reading. It also allows us to place the book in our mental catalogue, so that we can refer to it, should the need arise.
Systematic skimming consists of the following steps:
1. Look at the Title Page and Preface
Our aim here is to attempt to place the book under an appropriate category, together with other similar books. Further, we need to consider the scope, aim and the author’s special angle on his subject.
2. Study the Table of Contents (ToC)
Reading the ToC with the chapters and sub-titles broken down, enables us to obtain a general overview of the book’s structure. Some books even have an extensive analytical ToC for each chapter, allowing us to understand the structure and ‘flow’ of the book in greater detail. In short, the ToC is extremely useful, as it acts as a roadmap to the entire book.
3. Check the Index
After looking at the title page & preface, and studying the ToC, we should have a fairly good idea as to what are the important terms in the book. For those crucial terms, we should refer to the index and look at the passages where these terms are cited. Within these passages, one may discover the crux of the author’s thesis.
4. Review the Pivotal Chapters
Based on the overall tone of the book, look at those chapters that seem pivotal to the arguments postulated by its’ author. If these chapters have summary statements in their opening or closing pages, read through it carefully. These are passages, which may summarize the major contentions being opined by the author.
5. Tune in to the ‘Pulse’
At this stage, we are ready to tune in to the ‘pulse’ of the book. This is performed by turning the pages, dipping in here and there, reading a paragraph or two, and sometimes several pages in sequence. Our main aim is to look for the signs of the main arguments put forward by the author. Remember to read the last final two or three pages of the book, for its conclusion. Authors often sum up new and important matters in this section.
After performing Systematic Skimming, we are able to understand the main contents and purpose of the book. With this, we are ready to perform the Second Stage of Inspectional Reading – Superficial Reading!