Dealing with information overload
Being able to handle information efficiently is a skill which will stand you in good stead, both when studying and at work. Information overload is a very real problem, which can affect morale and well-being if not acknowledged and tackled.
Filtering is a mental process involving skim-reading, evaluation and a series of quick judgements about what to do next. When faced with a screen full of search results, you can get a feel for which ones might be relevant by looking at the headings, highlighted keywords, type of site, URL and date.
Having decided to investigate a site further, you can get a quick overview by employing some scanning and skimming techniques.
Scanning involves looking quickly down the page to locate relevant words, phrases or images that you are interested in. This will help you to decide whether you should read further and how useful the website or document might be. You can scan:
- headings and subheadings
- images and artwork
- the body text itself, e.g. for authors’ names
- the sitemap.
Skimming the text quickly involves:
- getting an indication of the scope and content of the information
- looking at the first sentence of each paragraph to see what it’s about
- noting the key points in any summaries.