Integrated writing is an extremely common task type at the university level. In fact, almost all of the writing you will do may be considered "integrated" to some degree. Integrated writing means writing in response to ideas found in a reading or listening passage. You can use these passages to inform your writing. Integrated writing prompts may ask you to compare/contrast or provide 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 will allow you to refer to the original material (or at least the notes you took) while reading/listenign. However, there may be instances when there will be a constraint of time (such as on a quiz or test) and you cannot look back at the original passage.
Writing about a topic and drawing connections between different sources pushes you beyond passive understanding to recreating essential knowledge in your own words.
Although this section is about integrated writing in general, all of the writing tips in this textbook will help you with the integrated essay on the TOEFL.
Step One: Review the source material
This means that when you encounter an integrated writing prompt, you should first think about the content.
- 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?
- What connections are there between the various sources?
- 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 abstractly?
- Is there a time limit for reviewing the source and/or writing my response?
Because integrated writing generally includes access to the source material before writing and during the writing process itself, this will feel more like a drafted task.
Step Two: Organizing your ideas AND your time
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 verbatim.
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.
Examples of integrated writing prompts
- Watch the debate about genetic testing and write a summary of the two arguments. What points and evidence did you find most convincing? Explain why that evidence had an impact on you. Do you agree or disagree with the final decision? (Intro to Biology)
- Read the assigned children's book. What is the explicit message of the story? What are the implicit messages? Use terms we have discussed in class to explain the examples from the book. (Intro to Sociology)
- Compare and contrast two works of art from different time periods. Use support from published critiques and analyses of both works to inform your comparison. (Art History)
Exercise 1: Integrated Writing
Prompt: A common observation and point of discussion in the modern world is that individuals are becoming increasingly dependent, or even addicted to, their cell phones. The two sources below have differing positions on the topic. Use specific details and examples from both the video and the article to explain the contrasting viewpoints on the topic of phone addiction. Your answer should be between 250-300 words. You may take notes.