Information Explosion – II

He who runs the information runs the show…


Speed Reading


One way to cope with the information explosion is to learn what must be read and what must be skimmed. Another popular solution is speed reading or rapid reading. Rapid reading involves unlearning inadequate or wrong reading habits and techniques and learning correct ones. Here is a list of some of the problems that may be slowing you down:

  • Back-skipping or regression: Going back over words and phrases. Try to cut this habit completely.
  • Slow fixation: Your eyes stay with a word grouping longer than necessary. Try to reduce fixation time and increase the number of words per fixation.
  • Visual wandering: Eyes wander off during reading. Can be eliminated by concentrating more and skimming the boring part.
  • Conscious regression: Reading again a passage on purpose because you did not think you got it right at the first time. Once you start reading properly, your comprehension will improve and you will slowly get over this problem.
  • Sub-vocalizing: If you move your lips while reading, your reading speed is limited by how fast you can speak.


All these problems can be removed with practice and in some case by getting expert advice. There are institutions which teach rapid reading and attending such a course will be useful. But for most people self-training is enough. Taking notes while reading will improve retention and the next time you won’t have to read the entire text again. Instead, you can consult the notes. It is a good practice to keep a ring binder with loose sheets with you for taking notes while reading. Then, you can file them under different categories for future reference. This is an effective way of coping with the information explosion.


Another technique for improving your comprehension is called ‘SQ3R’. SQ3R is a technique used to learn by first understanding it, and building a mental framework into which facts can then be fitted. SQ3R stands for the stages in which information can be assimilated: Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review These stages are explained below:

In coping with the information explosion, it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Digest smaller amounts of material that are richer in information, not a gluttonous amount filled with starchy nonsense. Enjoy what you read (In this multimedia era, when I say read, what I mean is read, hear and see!!). And by no means must everything you absorb have a specific purpose. You can learn a lot about how to survive in the corporate world from reading “The Dilbert Principle”. But read it because, it’s a good book, not because, of some work-related benefit.

  • Survey – Survey the document. Scan the contents, introduction, chapter introductions and chapter summaries to pick up a shallow overview of the text and form an opinion of whether it will be of any help.
  • Question – Make a note of any questions that come to mind or particularly interest you about the subject as a result of your survey. Perhaps re-scan the document to see if any questions stand out. These questions can be considered almost as study goals – understanding the answers can help you to structure the information in your own mind.
  • Read – Now read the document. Read through it in detail, taking care to understand all the points that are relevant. In the case of some texts this reading may be very slow if there is a lot of dense and complicated information.
  • Recall – Once you have read the document, or a section of it, run through it in your mind a number of times. Isolate out the core facts or the essential processes behind the subject, and then see how other information fits around them. Some things may require more recital than others for them to sink in.
  • Review – Once you have run through the exercise of Recalling the information, you can move on to the stage of reviewing the information. This review can be by re-reading the document, by expanding your notes, or by discussing the material with someone else. A particularly effective method of reviewing information is to have to teach it to someone else!

In conclusion, I quote Joseph Gobbles “He who runs the information runs the show”.

Alexis Leon, DQ Week Madras, 2nd June 1997.

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