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Reading and note taking – preparation for study
Reading and note taking – preparation for study

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2 Purposeful reading

2.1 Reading techniques: scanning

There are three main techniques that you can use in order to read in such a way as to achieve your purpose: scanning, skimming, and focused reading. Let's take each in turn.

The technique of scanning is a useful one to use if you want to get an overview of the text you are reading as a whole – its shape, the focus of each section, the topics or key issues that are dealt with, and so on. In order to scan a piece of text you might look for sub-headings or identify key words and phrases which give you clues about its focus. Another useful method is to read the first sentence or two of each paragraph in order to get the general gist of the discussion and the way that it progresses.

Activity 2

Read the Scotsman article on the child curfew scheme in Hamilton again (reproduced below). Have a go at scanning the text for clues about the shape and general focus of the article. Jot down any key words or ideas that seem to jump out at you. You will find our feedback and comments noted in the "Now read the discussion" link beneath the article. Try not to read these until you have completed the activity.

Hamilton child safety curfew to be extended

Calls for scheme to go national, despite rise in crime on estates where trial held

Jim Wilson

The expansion of the so-called child curfew in Hamilton was announced yesterday as the Government called for the controversial scheme to be copied across Scotland.

The operation will now cover the whole of the Lanarkshire town, despite official research suggesting that crime rose in the three housing estates where it was launched a year ago.

The extension of the initiative, in which children out after dark are taken home, was announced as Strathclyde Police and the Scottish Office released analysis suggesting the community patrols have overwhelming support in the town.

Opinion polls in Hamilton, including one run by a local newspaper, revealed more than 90 per cent backing for the curfew, although more than half of all children thought police did not understand youngsters and stopped them for no reason.

Yesterday, the Scottish Office urged the other seven Scottish forces to copy the curfew, despite critics claiming the operation is unnecessary and heavy-handed.

No other Scottish force has voiced any interest in adopting a similar strategy but Henry McLeish, the Scottish Office home affairs minister, said every town and city could benefit. He said chief constables must decide their own operational strategies, but the success of the initiative in Hamilton could not be questioned and promised to send the new analysis to every force and police board.

‘I would be delighted to see this initiative copied and developed elsewhere,’ he said.

‘This should be the start of a huge debate about how best to reclaim our communities for decent, ordinary people.’

Research, commissioned by the Government and carried out by Stirling University, looked at the first six months of the operation, October 1997 to April 1998, and revealed that reported crime in the chosen estates fell by 23 per cent compared with the previous six months.

However, researchers concede seasonal trends meant more crimes are committed in summer and, when compared with the same six months of the year before, reported crime actually rose on the estates of White-hill, Hillhouse, and Fairhill, by 17 per cent.

In addition, a survey in Hillhouse revealed that, while 44 per cent of people felt safer since the curfew was launched, a rising number of residents, 84 per cent, would not now enter certain areas of the estate.

Critics claim police should already be protecting very young children and Save the Children in Scotland fears the rights of young people could be violated. Yesterday, the charity's director, Alison Davies, said the research demanded careful scrutiny. ‘The figures and factors underpinning the research must be studied closely’.

The Government is keen for the Hamilton scheme to be a template for adoption by forces across Britain, but John Orr, the Strathclyde chief constable, conceded the research was not wholly supportive.

He stressed, however, that complaints to the police had fallen by 20 per cent in the pilot areas while the initiative, which will be continued as a pilot project for another year, had won backing from parents, children, and traders.

He said the scheme had been misrepresented as a curfew intended to reduce crime, but had instead been driven by the need to protect vulnerable children and encourage their parents to take more responsibility.

He said: ‘The suggestion that officers are going around like dog-catchers snatching children off the streets is simply wrong. There has not been a single complaint about the initiative and it has clearly been given the community's seal of approval.’

Mr Orr said the number of community officers involved in the expanded initiative would have to be doubled, possibly trebled, from the two teams of six currently involved.

A total of 280 children have been returned home over the past year. Five were charged with offences. Seventy per cent were boys, 14 per cent were aged under eight years old, and almost ten per cent were drunk. Sixty-one children have been taken home in the last six months compared with 221 in the first half of the trial, and officers believe the reduction indicates that more parents are taking responsibility for their children.

Allan Miller, the director of the Scottish Centre for Human Rights, said there was legitimate scepticism concerning crime figures and claimed the research proved only that treating all youngsters as potential criminals is not the answer. He said ‘The statistics on crime complaints and safety perceptions are mixed if looked at on the whole. For the police, the lesson should be to listen to and understand young people and to recognise their needs and rights.’

Mr Miller said 77 per cent of the children taken home by police were aged 12 to 15 and had done nothing wrong. He said it was significant the scheme had been renamed since being launched to include the protection of youngsters.

Meanwhile, South Lanarkshire Council yesterday announced the opening of a new £3 million centre for young people as part of the increased provision of youth facilities.

Source: The Scotsman, 16 October 1998


With just a brief scan of the text we came up with the following:

  • Plans to expand the scheme

  • Crime rise/effectiveness of scheme?

  • Much support for scheme

  • No interest from other forces

  • Research findings

  • Feeling safer

  • Complaints/support

  • Community officer numbers

  • Numbers of children involved

  • Human rights issues

  • New centre for young people planned

Comparing your notes with ours, you will probably find that we have some points in common, but perhaps you also got some different ideas down as well. That's to be expected. The point of the activity is not to come up with exactly the same information but rather to demonstrate the usefulness of scanning as a technique for getting a general sense of the article.

Clearly, this method of reading does not generate much in the way of detail and perhaps you are wanting to extract more information on a particular issue or aspect of the debate. Skimming is a reading technique which enables you to identify specific information in a text as opposed to getting a more general idea.