Monday, October 3, 2016

Summary of Findings: Speed Reading (3.5 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 2016 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 on structured data.


Speed reading is an analytic modifier that describes a general body of techniques used to boost an individual’s overall reading speed and comprehension. The primary technique was developed by Evelyn Wood in the 1950s and involved using the reader’s finger, or other object, to lead the eyes across the text in order to maintain a consistent reading pace and increase perception of keywords in the texts.


  • Potentially allows an individual to devote more time into other projects
  • The technique is simple to perform
  • It can be taught in bulk
  • Studies show speed reading doesn’t necessarily detract from reading comprehension


  • Can make detecting deception more difficult
  • Requires constant attentiveness to retain the skillset
  • Harder to implement critical analysis and thinking
  • Validity is questionable particularly for forecasting ability
  • Speed reading techniques might not be as effective when reading from computer monitors
  • The technique is not necessarily strong with critical thinking and analyses


  1. Obtain base layer reading level by going to a free online reading score such as
  2. Use a pen, pencil, or finger to underline a line of text and follow along with your eyes, keeping the pace to approximately one line of text per second.
  3. Increase speed to the point where you feel you are losing comprehension.
  4. Now increase the efficiency of your peripheral vision by cutting one word off the front and last word of each line with your pen, pencil, or finger. Allow your periphery to connect the word to the line of text you’re reading.
  5. As speed increases, take another word off the end of each line with your pen, pencil, or finger.
  6. Continue until you can trace your finger down the page with minimal lateral movement.

* Push yourself to read past a comfortable level while still being able to retain the content.

Application of Technique:

A speed reading team was pitted against a normal reading team in a 10 minute long exercise. Both teams had the same documents to read. These documents were taken from the CIA’s data base on VENONA. Out of a selection of 5 documents,  four were related to the traitor Julius Rosenberg while one was an unrelated piece.

The speed reading team was given the documents in their entirety. They then had 2.5 minutes to speed read the documents. At the end of their time limit, the documents were collected and the team had 7.5 minutes to discuss what the had read.

The normal reading group received one document every minute for 5 minutes. The documents were then collected at the end of the five minutes and the team had 5 minutes to discuss what they had read.

At the end of the exercise, the two teams discussed what they had found. The normal reading team had a better grasp of the packet of paper while the speed reading team came to a different, semi-unrelated conclusion.

One thing that should have been done prior to the start of the exercise that was not done was establishing some context for the documents instead of throwing them into the exercise in medias res.

For Further Information:

Speed Reading Wikipedia:

Big Question: Is Speed Reading Actually Possible?:

Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics:

The Evelyn Wood Seven-Day Speed Reading and Learning Program:

SPRITZ: Reading Reimagined:

Is Speed Reading Possible?:

The 1,000-Word Dash:

Baseline Reading Level:

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