I am currently working on the literature review for an article. I am a rather slow reader and thus writing the lit review section usually takes me a lot of time. I also tend to read things in full, i.e. I read articles (admittedly not books) in full. For the sake of speeding up my writing somewhat, I am trying this time to skim read more as that seems to be what people usually advise one does for lit reviews and academic reading in general.

However, a question I have for people skimming an article (i.e. reading only the intro and conclusion and scanning quickly the rest of the article), aren't you afraid of missing something important? I am not just talking about missing something that might be helpful for one's own work. What I am always afraid of is that I miss someone making a point I am making in my own article.

That would mean that I could then be accused of not having acknowledged that someone else has made the point before me. I am fairly certain that I can gain the main arguments/points of an article from skim reading it, but that is not the case for minor details and points in the main body of the article of course.

In any case, I would be curious to know what people think about this.

[x-posted here: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskAcademia/comments/1cb6mwi/the_disadvantages_of_skim_reading/]

2 Answers 2


First of all, you should remember what is the actual purpose of skimming an article. If it is to add in the literature review section, where you only introduce/include state of the art techniques, then it is okay if you miss any important details that is often embedded deep in the paper, usually results and discussion sections. However, sometimes, while presenting your results and comparing them with other similar and contemporary research results, we need to read and understand the papers in a bit more detail.

Since you did not mention your field/area of research, I would like to give a tip since you are a slow reader. Sometimes, video presentations are also present for the full paper if/when they are presented in a conference. Such presentations condense the whole paper in 5 to 10 minutes presentation. This could also help understanding the paper without reading it.

Good Luck!


Two of the many skills that academic research requires are 1) The ability to skim and 2) The ability to decide what to skim and what to read in full.

Skimming for a lit review can be quite different than other kinds of skimming. Often, you will want to cite an article or book for one specific bit of content. In this case, you will want to read the abstract and also look for terms related to that specific bit. If the article is online (and what isn't, these days?) and accessible (harder, but if you have access to a university library, not so hard) then you can search for that.

But if the article you are reading is useful to you for many reasons, you will want to read the whole thing fairly carefully. Especially read the limitations section! But also, check relevant things. Unfortunately, what is relevant varies. But often the article may be about a different sample, or use different tools, and so on.

And if it's a really important article, you may want to check out the articles that have cited it. It wouldn't be good to base a whole lot of your article on an article that has been shown to be wrong!

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