ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Productive reading
Why spend time and effort reading a particular text?
Distinguishing between support and ‘front-line’ literature
How can you identify fit-for-purpose support texts to read in full or selectively?
Advance check: suitable support literature for your identified reading purpose
How can you identify fit-for-purpose front-line texts to read in summary or in depth?
Advance check: suitable front-line literature for your identified reading purpose
Scrutinising the efficiency of your academic reading habits
How efficient are you as a reader in your academic studies?
Reading strategies: scanning, skimming and intensive reading
Taking risks with your reading time and effort
Making the most of your reading time and effort: towards an effective compromise
Scanning a short text for specific information
Skimming long texts
Writing effectively
Arguing convincingly
Mapping your field
Literature reviewing
Reviewing the literature systematically
Developing proposals
Scanning a short text for specific information 


You may often need to check whether a text is relevant to your reading purposes or to find specific information in a text. A common reason for scanning short texts is during electronic searches of academic journals in databases to which you may have access through your library. One efficient way to check is through keyword searches of the titles and abstracts of articles, since they should give a summary of the content of any article. If the keyword search brings up a title and abstract that look highly relevant, then you can download the full article. Often, however, a keyword search produces a large number of articles that are may be pertinent to your study. If you are faced with hundreds of potentially useful articles it helps if you can quickly scan the titles and abstracts for the sort of information that will confirm whether to invest more time downloading and reading an article intensively.

Here is a quick scanning exercise. Below are the title, abstract and other reference details of an academic journal article. Suppose you are interested in the management issue of retaining valued employees. You want to know about why employees might wish to leave, whether the main reasons are the same in all sectors, and what might be done to retain valued employees.

How relevant is this article likely to be to this management issue? Scan the text to answer these questions:

1.       What is the focus of the article?

2.       Which sector does the study cover and which group of employees are involved?

3.       What were the main reasons why some employees considered leaving?

4.       How much evidence is offered?

5.       what are managers doing to retain nurses?


Chan, E. and Morrison, P. (2000)
Factors influencing the retention and turnover intentions of registered nurses in a Singapore hospital. Nursing and Health Sciences, 2: 113-121.

The rapid growth in Singapore’s health-care industry, coupled with an aging population has led to an acute shortage of nurses. Given the difficulty of recruiting new nurses, it is imperative to retain those already in the profession. This descriptive study explored some demographic and work-related factors which influenced the retention and turnover intentions of Registered Nurses (RN) in a major hospital in Singapore. Using convenience sampling, 120 respondents were selected. An anonymous self-reported questionnaire was used. Results showed that demographically, stayers and leavers differed in terms of experience as RN, speciality qualifications and practice area. A majority of the respondents gave reasons such as inadequacy of staffing, poor salary and welfare as primary influences on their intention to leave. Recommendations for management were made to assist in the retention of these RN in the future.

 Also see Distinguishing betweeb support and front-line literature

Our answers are:

1.       the focus is on employee retention and intentions to leave

2.       the sector is healthcare in Singapore

3.       reasons why nurses considered leaving included inadequate staffing, poor salaries and welfare

4.       this is a report of research using a self-report questionnaire administered to 120 nurses

5.       management strategies are not mentioned but it is indicated that recommendations are made, so this article would have to be read to find out what they are

Scanning longer texts obviously takes more time. So it is worth getting clear what you are looking for from a long text, and then thinking about where in the text you are likely to find it. In this case, you might download the whole article so that you can find out what nurse retention strategies are recommended for managers. Where would you look? We suggest going straight to the conclusion, because recommendations for practice will probably be warranted by the findings. So the findings will be presented first so that the authors can demonstrate that their recommendations should be accepted, since they follow from what has been found out in the empirical setting.

If you would like to see if our hunch is correct and you have access to the journal from your library, download the article. Scan the text to see where the recommendations are mentioned. Or else take a shortcut and use the electronic wordsearch facility!