Incremental reading

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Incremental reading is a method for learning and retaining information from reading that might otherwise be forgotten. It is particularly targeted to people who are trying to learn a large amount of information at once, particularly if that information is varied.

Incremental reading works by breaking up key points of articles, often dozens or thousands of articles, into flashcards, which are then learned and reviewed over an extended period. Concretely, when reading an article (in a web browser), the reader selects extracts (similar to underlining or highlighting a paper article), which are then converted to question-answer format, often by cloze deletion, and then scheduled for learning and review by the learning software. This flashcard creation process is semi-automated – the reader chooses which material to learn and edits the precise wording of the questions, while the software assists in making the flashcards and does the scheduling.

Incremental reading is based on psychological principles of long-term memory storage and retrieval, in particular the spacing effect.

Information is broken into chunks, and an algorithm (usually computer software) organises the user's reading and calculates the ideal time for the reader to review each chunk. The method itself is often credited to the Polish software developer Piotr Wozniak.

Until recently,[when?] Wozniak's SuperMemo was the only implementation of incremental reading (as opposed to simply spaced repetition of questions and cloze deletions etc.). Anki has an implementation available as an add-on.[1][2]

There is also incremental reading support for the text editors Emacs[3] and Yi.[4]


With incremental reading, a load of material is subdivided into articles and its extracts. All articles and extracts are processed according to the rules of spaced repetition. This means that all processed pieces of information are presented at increasing intervals. Individual articles are read in portions proportional to the attention span, which depends on the user, their mood, the article, etc.

The name "incremental" comes from "reading in portions". Without the use of spaced repetition, the reader would quickly get lost in the glut of information when studying dozens of subjects at the same time. However, spaced repetition makes it possible to retain traces of the processed material in memory. Incremental reading makes it possible to read hundreds of articles at the same time with a substantial gain to attention.

For incremental reading to leave a permanent mark in long-term memory, the processed material must be gradually converted into material based on active recall. This means that extracts such as "George Washington was the first U.S. President" must be changed to questions such as "Who was the first U.S. President?", "Who was George Washington?", etc.


  1. ^ "Incremental Reading Extension and View Size Adjust". AnkiWeb. Retrieved 2015-10-12. 
  2. ^ "Incremental Reading Extension". Archived from the original on October 31, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  3. ^ Last edited 2007-03-06 07:09 UTC by ChrisForno (diff) (2007-03-06). "Incremental Reading". EmacsWiki. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  4. ^

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