Scalping utilizes larger position sizes for smaller price gains in the smallest period of holding time. It is performed intraday. The main goal is to buy or sell a number of shares at the bid — or ask — price and then quickly sell them a few cents higher or lower for a profit. The holding times can vary from seconds to minutes, and in some cases up to several hours. The position is closed before the end of the total market trading session, which can extend to 8 p.m. EST.
Swing trading refers to the practice of trying to profit from market swings of a minimum of one day and as long as several weeks. In contrast to swing traders, day traders usually are in and out of the market in one day and trend traders often hold positions for several months. So, in terms of length of holding a trade, swing traders are in between day traders and trend traders.
In addition to knowledge of basic trading procedures, day traders need to keep up on the latest stock market news and events that affect stocks—the Fed's interest rate plans, the economic outlook, etc. So do your homework. Make a wish list of stocks you'd like to trade and keep yourself informed about the selected companies and general markets. Scan business news and visit reliable financial websites.