Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Knowing When to Speed - Speed Reading


In the article, Speed Reading; Learning to Read More Efficiently, the author talks about how the method can break poor reading habits, details the most successful ways to incorporate this method of reading and explores the science behind how we read. Speed reading is a technique that can be learned. It may not always be applicable and the reader should focus on what their goal is before reading a passage of text.


The technique is useful for increasing words per minute and understanding the overall argument of a book or document as it looks at the broader picture. The key to speed reading is breaking bad reading habits. These include; sub-vocalization (reading each word aloud in your head), reading word-by-word, inefficient eye motion and regression (unnecessary re-reading of material).

            Although we are taught to read from left to right and take in each word, sentence and paragraph, sometimes it is beneficial to scan ahead. This is another useful part of speed reading as you can avoid the ‘fluff’ and concentrate on titles and bullet points that tend to make the key points.
            The key’s to speed reading are; to keep practicing, speed read appropriately, use the structure to skim for important information and benchmark against your current reading speed in order to measure progress with the technique.

  • ·      Can be applied to most forms of text
  • ·      Useful for becoming more efficient in a number of areas
  • ·      Once mastered, can be switched on and off depending on the material at hand
  • ·      Greater comprehension by acknowledging the bigger picture of an argument/text

  • ·      May be difficult to learn
  • ·      Involves breaking old habits
  • ·      May result in a lack of attention to detail if done wrong


Speed reading as an analytical technique may not be clear at first, but by utilizing it as a more efficient method, users can understand the broader picture. By skimming and utilizing speed reading, the user can grasp the arguments and concepts rather than piecing the text together word by word and then working upwards to sentences, paragraphs and overall concepts. The technique must be used in the right context in order to be of greatest utility.


Manktelow, James. Speed Reading; Learning to Read More Efficiently. Retrieved from;  http://www.mindtools.com/speedrd.html


  1. Is there any guidance on when to use speed reading and when not to use it? While this type of speed reading does help develop the larger picture, are smaller details lost? Would the tool be effective in intelligence analysis and how?

  2. I thought it was important that one of the strengths was "can be switched on or off." This would be very useful to an analyst, who could speed read a large amount of documents to determine the most relevant, and then slow down in order to increase comprehension of them.

  3. One of the challenges that was listed was "breaking old habits." Was any guidance offered on how on could break an old habit? Are certain habits worse than others?

  4. The concept of reducing sub-vocalization came up repeatedly in my research. It seems interesting that so much of speed reading involves unlearning that which we spent years developing as young learners.

  5. Under the strengths, "Difficult to learn" was listed. If it's difficult to learn how effective can it be?