Monday, September 28, 2015

Speed Reading (4 out of 5 stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the  articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in September 2015 regarding Speed Reading as an Analytic Technique specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.

Speed reading is a modifier that allows one to read a book, journal article, novel or magazine at a faster rate, but, possibly, at the cost of reading comprehension. Likewise, the modifier needs to be practiced and used on a consistent basis in order to maintain the benefits of the technique, otherwise the skill deteriorates. While the skill is useful, more investigation needs to be done into which techniques and training that improve speed and comprehension, particularly if the success of these techniques vary between individuals. Along the same lines, more research is needed to specify which techniques are most beneficial to intelligence analysts.

  • With consistent practice, speed reading has the potential to increase efficiency.
  • Increased reading speed increases the amount of material an analyst can get through thereby increasing their overall efficiency.
  • Enables people to rapidly read through large amounts of material.
  • Training and practice allows analysts to comprehend as much or more information relative to average readers.

  • Requires training and consistent practice to read faster while comprehending more information.
  • Eliminates emotion from reading.
  • Prevents checking previously stated information via regression.
  • Potential to miss details and decrease comprehension without experience.
  • All techniques may not be applicable to all readers
  • Results may vary between mediums (computers and books).

While there are many different methods of speed reading, the class was exposed to the ones listed below:
  1. A popular method is to use a finger, pen, or computer mouse to follow along the words, thus forcing the individual to speed up to their pointer.
  2. Read paragraphs in chunks, identifying key words and phrases and thus identifying the gist of the paragraph.
  3. Remove subvocalization. Instead of reading along to the voice in one’s head, read to the pace of one’s finger or pen.
  4. Eliminate re-reading words, phrases, & sentences.
  5. Use your peripheral vision. Pretend there is a vertical line in the middle of the text and focus on that line while using one’s peripheral vision to see and comprehend the words on either side of the line.

Personal Application of Technique:
In order to apply this technique, the class was split into two groups and there were two rounds of testing. In round one, one group was exposed to a training video about speed reading techniques and one of the groups was not. Then, each person read a passage to test their words per minute (WPM) and took a comprehension test. With that data, efficient words per minute (EWPM) was calculated and the results of the two groups were compared.  

Testing and Practical Exercises
Using the links below, the analysts speed reading performance was measured. This tested both words per minute and reading comprehension. These results produced the effective words per minute (EWPM) scores. Once scores were calculated on the excel spreadsheet, the group was able to discuss the results.

After a discussion of the results, round two was conducted. In this round, every person in both groups was exposed to speed reading techniques. One technique at a time was exposed to the subjects and they were to apply that technique to a passage and answer three questions about it. After that, the data gathered was used to again calculate EWPM and the results were compared with those of round one.

For additional information:
We used the excel spreadsheet to visualize the results in order to show the effects of two-minute training video.

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