Types of reading – part 2

The previous topic introduced us to survey, sampling, skim reading and scanning. Now we outline: selection, detailed reading, rapid reading and speed reading.


Imagine you are studying for an examination in car mechanics. You have a study text but you are required to carry out some additional research in order to write a paper.

You carry out a search on the Internet and find a report called “Mechanics”. It has various chapters that cover tractor mechanics, motorcycle mechanics, car mechanics and HGVs.

Selection means you focus your attention on the section of the report that is about car mechanics. It is the essential information that is of relevance to you and gives you what you need to write your paper.

Reading selectively means that you do not spend time on other materials that may be of interest but are not crucial to your need.

Detailed reading

When you pick up a study text or perhaps a novel, you will be aiming to read and understand the content. Detailed reading is the most commonly used method of tackling this type of material (although it may not always be the most effective).

We associate this type of reading with serious study, concentration, perhaps making notes, getting to the meaning of the content, re-reading to be able to fully absorb the information and so on.

It is a type of reading that can be developed with different techniques thereby improving understanding, memory retention, time efficiency and so on.

Rapid reading 

Have you ever read a book – perhaps a mystery story – and skipped quickly through the last few pages or chapters to discover the solution to the puzzle?

If so, you have been practicing rapid reading. It is not usually associated with studying theory or serious text because it is concerned with finding out what happens next.

However, what is helpful to know about this type of reading is that it is useful in circumstances where you do not need to read closely or pay attention to every detail. It could come in handy in certain study or work-related situations.

Speed reading

Of all the different reading techniques, speed reading is perhaps the one about which most has been written, researched and discussed.

We will explore more about speed reading later in this course, but in essence, it is a technique which involves quickening your reading speed through ultra rapid skimming.

There is some debate about the effectiveness of speed reading. Proponents of it will claim that, if done correctly, it will aid comprehension, save time and provide the opportunity to increase general knowledge.

The less enthusiastic suggest it is a useful technique for absorbing information at a superficial level and that it is not really suitable for understanding and retaining information.

It could be that speed reading is simply not a technique correctly or fully employed and therefore, has less benefit to the user. We will take a look at some speed reading concepts in the next chapter and allow you to make up your own mind. 


We have now identified these 8 different types of reading:

  1. Rapid survey
  2. Sampling
  3. Skim reading
  4. Scanning
  5. Selection
  6. Detailed reading 
  7. Rapid reading 
  8. Speed reading

The skill is to know how to use each of these techniques and when they are best used.

When do you think each of these types of reading would be most suited to you?