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Why Speed Reading Can Help You Write a Fast Research Essay

Speed reading books for research essay When someone says it took them x number of hours to write a research essay, what they are likely not including is the amount of time that went into collecting and reading all of the material they used.

Reading, and writing a research essay

The reading that goes into writing a large research paper is really the most time-consuming part. Sifting through hundreds of pages of literature (depending on the size of the paper, and number of resources required) can take hours, days, even weeks to do properly. That is why speed (or skim) reading is such a vital skill to have.

Most people can read between 200 and 300 words per minute. Above average readers can read between 300 and 700 words per minute. Speed readers can read over 700 words per minute. That means they are able to read 10 to 16 words at a glance, both vertically and horizontally on the page, while understanding the gist of what the writer is trying to convey. If you are interested in why speed reading is such a vital part of research essay writing, the below should be of interest.

Speed writing is, in actuality, skim reading

When we say ‘speed reading’ what we really mean is ‘skim reading.’ An article published in the New York Times opinion column in April of 2015 entitled “Sorry, You Can’t Speed Read,” claims exactly that, referring to a study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest which concludes that speed reading is really the art of skimming. While you may not be able to dramatically increase the speed at which you read without losing important things like nuance, subtext, and context, you can get better at searching out vital information.

That, in essence, is the art of writing a research essay: being able to quickly find vital information. In order to do that, you can, through repetition, train your eyes to look both horizontally and vertically while you read to become more adept at picking out information that is going to be of use to you. If you are reading for pleasure, then you may want to slow your reading down and really make sure you fully absorb every single word on a page. If, on the other hand, you are trying to read economically to write a last minute research essay, then knowing how to effectively skim is key. There are also custom research essay writing services available if you really need professional help.

Speed reading is silent reading

The vast majority of readers hear and sound out the words (even if they are doing it in their heads) while they read. They might have been taught to sound-out every word they read, or it might be something they stumbled on through trial and error, discovering that it helped them read and understand. The reason sounding out words is detrimental to speed reading (i.e. skimming), is because you end up reading at the speed of your speech, not at the speed of your thoughts.

Even if you are only reiterating the words silently in your head, doing so requires some cognitive capacity that you are not allocating to taking in the words and digesting their meaning. This is inevitably going to cap the speed at which you can read. To really be able to ‘speed read,’ or to come as close as you can without losing a significant amount of meaning, you have to train yourself to read silently (i.e. at the same speed as you think).

Speed reading requires you to constantly be building your lexicon

Being able to effectively skim and speed read anything requires a pre-existing vocabulary. Most people who are effective speed readers have large enough vocabularies that they don’t have to constantly stop to sound out words. Every time you pause and stumble, you lose your reading momentum, and you also lose time. That is not to say you need a Shakespeare-esque vocabulary in order to be an effective speed reader, but you certainly can’t be pausing every few words to consult a dictionary, or ask yourself what a word means.

Therefore, the more you read (in general), the larger your vocabulary becomes, the more words you are familiar with, and the less you have to switch gears to understand a word you just read. Reading, therefore, is something you get progressively better at, so throughout your university education, as the years go by, you will read more and more, building an even larger vocabulary, and improving your reading speed as you go.

Don’t read at a speed that diminishes comprehension

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to implement speed reading techniques is trying to power through a text in as little time as possible. Speed reading and skimming still implies that you are taking in meaning, and study after study has shown that as reading speed increases, comprehension goes down. For instance, if you are responding to a case study on a final exam, it’s not a good idea to try and skim the case. You are going to need to know the specific, intricate details in this instance – something only careful, methodical reading will permit. You are also not going to want to try and speed-read your way through something like a legal document, such as a contract.

If your goal, however, is to try and parse large amounts of text to find useful information, quotations, and citations for a research essay, then speed reading principles and skimming techniques are absolutely vital. The time demands of a university education, coupled with competing demands from elsewhere in your life (work and personal), mean that you sometimes are not going to have the time to sit down and read 10 academic articles word for word, and then synthesize it all into a 2500-word paper. In that case, get in touch with Homework Help Global and let us assign a professional academic writer to your research essay.


Bergen, B. (2014). “Reading Fast and Slow: Can New Technology Double Your Reading Speed?” Psychology Today. Retrieved from:

Sutz, R. & Weverka, P. “Speed Reading for Dummies Cheat Sheet.” Dummies. Retrieved from:

Zacks, J.M. & Treiman, R. (2016). “Sorry, You Can’t Speed Read.” New York Times. Retrieved from: