Integrated writing is an extremely common task type in life, especially at the college level. In fact, almost all of the writing you will do may be considered "integrated" to some degree. Integration means including ideas using one or both of your receptive language skills: reading and listening. At the most basic level, when we read or listen and then respond, we are using a receptive skill to support our writing. At the more academic level of this skill, you will express an understanding both of explicit and implicit information. This may include comparing/contrasting or providing your own opinion on the topic.
Because this is such a common expectation of academic writing, you can expect to see integrated tasks in potentially any college course you enroll in. Typically a true integrated task would allow you the support of referring to the original material (or at least the notes you took) while writing. However, there may be instances when there will be a constraint of time (such as on a quiz or test).
Writing about a topic you were expected to understand and drawing connections between different sources pushes you beyond a passive understanding to recreating the essential knowledge of the course in your own words.
Integrated Writing Expectations
When you start an integrated writing assignment, there are two main things to think about with the expectations: source content and task.
Because you will be summarizing, comparing, or giving an opinion about the source material, you will first need to meet the expectations of comprehension for the sources. When you consider these expectations, think about the following questions:
- Is there one required source material or multiple?
- Is the content written or spoken?
- How complex are the ideas presented?
- What connections can I draw between the content and other concepts discussed in this (or another) course? Should I include these connections in my writing, or can I only write about the source content given now?
- What connections are there between the various sources?
As you read and/or listen, ask yourself some questions to make sure you get all of the necessary information:
- Who is writing? Who is the audience? Are people being discussed? (who)
- What is the main idea? What important details are included? (what)
- Is place important to this topic? (where)
- Is time important to this topic? (when)
- What purpose does the author have in saying/writing this? (why)
- How is the information organized? (how)
These are all skills you will continue to refine in your listening and reading classes. Pay close attention to the strategies you learn there and practice writing summaries of what you understood after each class period to practice this skill.
The next step is to make sure you understand what you need to do with the information you get from the sources.
Questions to think about for integrated writing
- Is one source more important than another?
- Is this a comparison, summary, opinion, or cause-effect task?
- What complexity of a response does the teacher expect?
- To what degree can I include my own opinion or background knowledge?
- Am I expected to include direct quotes/references to the text or to discuss it more indirectly through summary and paraphrase?
- Is there a time limit for reviewing the source and/or writing my response?
Because integrated writing generally includes access to the source material in advance of writing and during the writing process itself, this will feel more like a drafted task. Sometimes you will receive the source material well before the essay is due, as in a literature class where you give an analysis of a book. Other times, like on the TOEFL, you will have a limited amount of time to work with the source content.
Examples of integrated writing prompts
- Compare and contrast the similarties and differences in opinion between the authors of the two articles on dieting. Choose at least three aspects in your comparison.
- Read the newspaper article provided and discuss if this account is trustworthy according to the points discussed in class lectures.
- After reading the section of a textbook, listen to the professor's opinion on the topic. What reasons does the professor give for disagreeing with the text?
Writing with Time Limits
An outline will always benefit you. You may think that the best idea is to immediately start writing, but that could lead to a very disorganized or unfocused answer. Read the prompt carefully and make a brief outline of ideas from the source(s) that are necessary to include in your answer. Ensure that you know how all parts of the prompt will be addressed. Outline all of the most important details that you will include. Identify any specific phrases or sentences you would want to include word for word.
Second, be realistic about the time you have to work on this task. Review the source material to estimate the time it will take to read or listen to it. This may include multiple reviews and/or notetaking, which will add to the overall time. Next, consult the syllabus deadlines and your other commitments to set a personal timeline for working on this project. Will you have time to write multiple drafts? Is there time to have a classmate review your writing or to visit the campus Writing Center?
It may also be necessary to adjust times depending on what is most important to the teacher. For example, there may be a larger emphasis on accuracy, so you will need to give yourself more time to revise and edit. You will also want to consider how necessary it is for you to fully grasp the concepts. In other words, if this assignment is for a core course in your major or in a particularly challenging class, it will be worth scheduling additional time. However, if the assignment is a small percentage of your total grade, it may be fine to lower the priority for reviewing and drafting this essay.
Exercise 1: Integrated Writing Practice
- Read the passage.
- Listen to the lecture.
- Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they challenge specific arguments made in the reading passage.
Teachers have access to the "Science of Lying" Integrated Writing files on the ELC Curriculum Portfolio.