Identifying details in a text to answer specific questions (eg: who, what, when, where, why) is often achieved through a strategy known as ‘Scanning’ for details. This is actually a technique often used in daily life when looking up a word in the telephone book or dictionary. Also when you read a newspaper, you're probably not reading it word-by-word, instead you're scanning the text for important information of interest.
When we read a text, the author does not tell us everything. Therefore, we must be able to guess some things and make clear assumptions from the information, facts, opinions and author’s feelings presented in the passage. Such a process of guessing and critical thinking is called Making inferences .
Recognizing the purpose of a text involves firstly asking yourself a few important questions such as “What am I reading?” to determine text type ( eg: newspaper article, website, advertisement ), “Why did the author write the text?”, to establish author’s objectives, and “Why am I reading this text?”, to determine your own reading objectives and what you can extract from the passage.
Reading for gist is reading to get a general sense of what a reading passage is basically about. In other words, we read to understand the main topic, or theme of the passage. For example, a reading passage might basically be about a new type of technology, or a tourist's vacation trip, or a story about a fictional character.
Often a reading passage contains definitions or explanations of new words related to the topic. The definitions in the text may be given through different clues to help you identify how the author has explained its meaning. It is important to understand synonyms or parallel expressions are often used to define target vocabulary items .