Scanning & Skimming: 
Practice Finding Specific Information

Practice Scanning & Skimming

Scanning and skimming are important skills to help you get the information you need from your reading. Scanning is glancing quickly over a text to understand its basic organization and find the section most likely to have the information you need. Skimming is reading very quickly to get the main idea.

On this page, practice both skills to find specific information in a long report on mental illness.

If you needed information on the symptoms of schizophrenia, you might  do a Goggle or Bing search on “symptoms of schizophrenia.” If you wanted to be sure the information was accurate and authoritative, you should look for a website run by mental health experts. One such source is “Mental Health: a Report of the Surgeon General.” 

To find information on schizophrenia in the Surgeon General’s report, start by looking in the Table of Contents, part of which is reproduced below. (Since this exercise is just to practice finding information, the Table of Contents has been abridged, (shortened), as has some of the text. For the full text, see the report itself at the link above.)

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Introduction and Themes

Overarching Themes

  • Mental Health and Mental Illness: A Public Health Approach
  • Mental Disorders are Disabling
  • Mental Health and Mental Illness: Points on a Continuum
  • Mind and Body are Inseparable
  • The Roots of Stigma ...
  • The Science Base of the Report
  • Reliance on Scientific Evidence

  • Overview of the Report’s Chapters

    Chapter Conclusions

  • Chapter 2: The Fundamentals of Mental Health and Mental Illness
  • Chapter 3: Children and Mental Health
  • Chapter 4: Adults and Mental Health
  • Chapter 5: Older Adults and Mental Health
  • Chapter 6: Organization and Financing of Mental Health Services
  • Chapter 7: Confidentiality of Mental Health Information: Ethical, Legal, and Policy Issues
  • Chapter 8: A Vision for the Future—Actions for Mental Health in the New Millennium

What chapter would most likely discuss schizophrenia?

It’s probably Chapter 2. Here is an abridged list of its contents:

  • The Fundamentals of Mental Health and Mental Illness
  • The Neuroscience of Mental Health
  • Complexity of the Brain I: Structural
  • Complexity of the Brain II: Neurochemical ...
  • Overview of Mental Illness
  • Manifestations of Mental Illness
  • Diagnosis of Mental Illness
  • Epidemiology of Mental Illness...
  • Overview of Etiology
  • Biopsychosocial Model of Disease ...
  • Overview of Development, Temperament, and Risk Factors...
  • Overview of Prevention
  • Overview of Treatment
  • Overview of Mental Health Services..
  • Overview of Cultural Diversity and Mental Health Services...
  • Overview of Recovery...
  • Conclusions
  • Mental Health and Mental Illness Across the Lifespan
  • References

What section would be most likely to discuss schizophrenia symptoms?

I’d start by skimming "Overview of Mental Illness: Manifestations of Mental Illness" (or "Diagnosis of Mental Illness.") If there isn’t enough information there, you can always try another section.

Try skimming the section on Manifestations. (It's also shortened in places. See ellipses: ... We'll skip the section on Anxiety, as the first paragraph mentions that schizophrenia is associated with “disturbances of thought and perception (psychosis).” So we find the section on Psychosis.)

Manifestations of Mental Illness

Persons suffering from any of the severe mental disorders present with a variety of symptoms that may include inappropriate anxiety, disturbances of thought and perception, dysregulation of mood, and cognitive dysfunction. Many of these symptoms may be relatively specific to a particular diagnosis or cultural influence. For example, disturbances of thought and perception (psychosis) are most commonly associated with schizophrenia. Similarly, severe disturbances in expression of affect and regulation of mood are most commonly seen in depression and bipolar disorder. However, it is not uncommon to see psychotic symptoms in patients diagnosed with mood disorders or to see mood-related symptoms in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. Symptoms associated with mood, anxiety, thought process, or cognition may occur in any patient at some point during his or her illness.



Disturbances of perception and thought process fall into a broad category of symptoms referred to as psychosis. The threshold for determining whether thought is impaired varies somewhat with the cultural context. Like anxiety, psychotic symptoms may occur in a wide variety of mental disorders. They are most characteristically associated with schizophrenia, but psychotic symptoms can also occur in severe mood disorders.

One of the most common groups of symptoms that result from disordered processing and interpretation of sensory information are the hallucinations. Hallucinations are said to occur when an individual experiences a sensory impression that has no basis in reality. This impression could involve any of the sensory modalities. Thus hallucinations may be auditory, olfactory, gustatory, kinesthetic, tactile, or visual. For example, auditory hallucinations frequently involve the impression that one is hearing a voice. In each case, the sensory impression is falsely experienced as real.

A more complex group of symptoms resulting from disordered interpretation of information consists of delusions. A delusion is a false belief that an individual holds despite evidence to the contrary. A common example is paranoia, in which a person has delusional beliefs that others are trying to harm him or her. Attempts to persuade the person that these beliefs are unfounded typically fail and may even result in the further entrenchment of the beliefs.

Hallucinations and delusions are among the most commonly observed psychotic symptoms... Symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into two broad classes: positive symptoms and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms generally involve the experience of something in consciousness that should not normally be present. For example, hallucinations and delusions represent perceptions or beliefs that should not normally be experienced. In addition to hallucinations and delusions, patients with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia frequently have marked disturbances in the logical process of their thoughts. Specifically, psychotic thought processes are characteristically loose, disorganized, illogical, or bizarre. These disturbances in thought process frequently produce observable patterns of behavior that are also disorganized and bizarre. The severe disturbances of thought content and process that comprise the positive symptoms often are the most recognizable and striking features of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or manic depressive illness.

However, in addition to positive symptoms, patients with schizophrenia and other psychoses have been noted to exhibit major deficits in motivation and spontaneity that are referred to as negative symptoms. While positive symptoms represent the presence of something not normally experienced, negative symptoms reflect the absence of thoughts and behaviors that would otherwise be expected. Concreteness of thought represents impairment in the ability to think abstractly. Blunting of affect refers to a general reduction in the ability to express emotion. Motivational failure and inability to initiate activities represent a major source of long-term disability in schizophrenia. Anhedonia reflects a deficit in the ability to experience pleasure and to react appropriately to pleasurable situations. Positive symptoms such as hallucinations are responsible for much of the acute distress associated with schizophrenia, but negative symptoms appear to be responsible for much of the chronic and long-term disability associated with the disorder.

The psychotic symptoms represent manifestations of disturbances in the flow, processing, and interpretation of information in the central nervous system. They seem to share an underlying commonality of mechanism, insofar as they tend to respond as a group to specific pharmacological interventions. However, much remains to be learned about the brain mechanisms that lead to psychosis.

Quiz: Check Your Skimming Skills

So what have you learned about the symptoms of schizophrenia through skimming those sections? Answer these questions to check your understanding.

1. Name 4 common symptoms of schizophrenia:

Choose the best answer:

2. What are delusions?

  1. strange, unreal visions
  2. incorrect reasoning
  3. untrue ideas not backed by reality
  4. optical illusions

3. A deficit in this article means

  1. something missing that should be present
  2. a lack of money
  3. a major problem in the national budget
  4. the inability to act spontaneously

4. What does ‘blunting of affect’ mean?

  1. effectively blunting feelings of pain
  2. expressing one’s emotions bluntly
  3. preventing affected people from responding
  4. emotional response is restricted

5. What’s anhedonia?

  1. overwhelming pleasure
  2. limited ability to feel pleasure
  3. over-reacting to pleasant situations
  4. having no sources of pleasure in life

Go to the bottom of this page for answers.

Answers to the Quiz

1. Any four of these, in any order: hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, concreteness of thought (or reduced ability to think abstractly), blunting of affect (or reduced ability to express feelings or emotion), motivational failure, inability to initiate activities, (or deficits in motivation and spontaneity), anhedonia (or reduced ability to experience pleasure), disturbances of thought and perception (or disordered, disorganized, or bizarre thoughts)

2. C

3. A (D is often true of schizophrenics, according to the passage, but it is not the meaning of deficit.)

4. D

5. B

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