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.
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 similarities and differences in opinion between the authors of the two articles on screen time limits for children. (Early childhood education)
- Read the source provided and discuss if this account is trustworthy according to the points discussed in class lectures. (History)
- Analyze a stanza from a poem. What is the implied meaning? Explain this poem using the four analysis steps from the video we watched for homework about Shakespeare's sonnets. (English Literature)
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 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.