Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Systematic Skimming or Pre-reading" (An interesting read)

Exerpts from Adler and Van Doren's "How To Read A Book." A TOUCHSTONE Book published by Simon and Shuster (C) 1972; (taken from pages 32-36)

"First, you do not know whether you want to read the book. Second, let us assume - and this is very often the case- That you have only a limited time in which to find all this out."
"Giving a book this kind of quick once-over is a threshing process that helps you to separate the chaff from the real kernels of nourishment."
"The habit of skimming should not take much time to acquire. Here are some suggestions about how to do it."

1. Look at the title page and, if the book has one, at its preface. Read each quickly. Note especially the subtitles or other indications of the scope or aim of the book or of the author's special angle on his subject. Before completing this step you should have a good idea of the subject, and, if you wish, you may pause for a moment to place the book in the appropriate category in your mind. What pigeonhole that already contains other books does this one belong in?

2. Study the Table of Contents to obtain a general sense of the book's structure; use it as you would a road map before taking a trip.

3. Check the index if the book has one. Make a quick estimate of the range of topics covered and of the kind of books and authors referred to.

4. If the book is a new one with a dust jacket, Read the Publisher's Blurb. It not uncommon for authors to try to summarize as accurately as they can the main points in their book.

Upon completing these first four steps you may already have enough information about the book to know that you want to read it more carefully, or that you do not want or need to read it at all. In either case, you may put it aside for the moment. If you do not do so, you are now ready to skim the book, properly speaking.

5. Look now at the chapters that seem to be pivotal to its argument. If these chapters have summary statements in their opening or closing pages, as they often do, read these statements carefully.

6. Finally, turn the pages, dipping in here and there reading a paragraph or two, sometimes several pages in sequence, never more than that.

"You have now skimmed the book systematically; you have given it the first type of inspectional reading. You should know a good deal about the book at this point, after having spent no more than a few minutes, at most an hour, with it. In particular, you should know whether the book contains matter that you still want to dig out, or whether it deserves no more of your time and attention. You should also be able to place the book even more accurately than before in your mental card catalogue, for further reference if the occasion should ever arise."

"Think of yourself as a detective looking for clues to a book's general theme or idea, alert for anything that will make it clearer."

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