Recommended ways for students to use Skimcast

Here are some possible ways in which Skimcast can be used to assist in studying or in reading large amounts of text.

Summarize text

Skimcast generates summaries of text that can help you to gain a general reading knowledge of a text without reading the entire document. You can decide how long to make the summary in relation to the length of the text. For example, a 30% summary of a 1,000 word document will be approximately 300 words. You can choose any length between 1% and 99%. A low percentage will give you a general overview of the content of the text while a high percentage will produce a summary that includes more details from the text.

Summarization can assist in the comprehension of long documents. Skimming summaries of different lengths taken from the same document can make studying more efficient and effective. Long summaries can be used to focus on important information while filtering out less important text. Short summaries can be used as notes to review before an exam.

Highlight important text

When Skimcast skims a document, it generates a summary of the document. By default, all of the document’s text is visible with the summary sentences highlighted in yellow. These highlighted sentences are, according to Skimcast, the most informative sentences of the text. When a short summary is requested (with a low summary percentage), only a few sentences will be highlighted, typically corresponding to general points in the text. If a longer summary is requested, then more sentences will be highlighted and they will contain more details from the text.

Highlighting key sentences in a text is a good study technique for visualizing and organizing information. Skimcast can assist studying by automating the process of identifying and isolating key sentences. Reading only the highlighted sentences is equivalent to reading the summary described above. The presence of the entire text allows you to see the context surrounding the highlighted sentences. This automatic organization of informative text can simplify the task of doing research for reports.

List the most prominent themes

Skimcast generates a list of the main themes discussed in a text. Themes are displayed in descending order of linguistic prominence, with the most prominent themes at the top of the list. You can select a theme from the list to highlight, in green, all sentences in the text that mention the theme. The text will scroll automatically until the first green sentence is visible. The key themes list can be used as a study tool to provide an outline of the main ideas of a text. You can also use the themes to decide whether or not a document is relevant enough to read.

Listen to text and notes

Skimcast reads text to you from any of the supported document types. Skimcast will read the entire text of a document or just a summary. You can use this feature to produce an “audio book” of a document for listening in the car, or let Skimcast read summaries to you on the way to class.

Scan documents

Skimcast is also a document scanner. Using the mobile app, you can take pictures of pages and convert them to text that is skimmed automatically. This makes printed documents, like text books and handouts, skimmable using Skimcast. Skimcast will produce, automatically, a PDF document of all of your scanned pages. This document can be shared with other apps on your device.

To skim e-books that you are able to view on your mobile device but are not in any of the formats supported by Skimcast, you can use your device to take screenshots of the pages and import those screenshots into Skimcast. Skimcast will produce, automatically, a PDF of all of the screenshots that you have selected to be skimmed. This document can be shared with other apps on your device.

Improve writing

You can use Skimcast to analyze your writing and to identify ways to improve its clarity. Save your text in any of the supported file formats and load it into Skimcast. Skimcast will generate a list of the main themes in your text, listed in descending order of linguistic prominence. The top themes on the list correspond to the topics that Skimcast finds to be the most important, or the most salient, in your text. If the topics that you intended to be the main ideas of your text are not among the top themes on the list, or if the top themes found by Skimcast do not represent your most important points, then you can review what your text says about those themes and, perhaps, consider adjusting the language to clarify your key points.

Skimcast uses highlighting to help you to visualize the style and structure of your text. By looking at the highlighted sentences in a paragraph, you can see which sentences in the paragraph were found by Skimcast to be the most informative. Depending on your desired writing, you can determine if your most important information is in the right place. For example, if you intended the leading sentence in a paragraph to be the most important, then Skimcast can help you to check whether that is the case. Also, you can read the sentences surrounding the highlighted sentences to inspect transition sentences. For example, transitioning into an important sentence may improve the stylistic flow of a paragraph.

Compare lecture notes with the text book

Once you load a chapter from your text book into Skimcast, you can summarize the chapter to any percentage and get a list of the main topics. You can compare the summary and themes list from the chapter with your lecture notes to see how well your notes are capturing the main ideas in the chapter. This may help to organize your existing notes and help organize your content of future notes as you are taking them.