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?
TOEFL Timed Writing Expectations
In the first integrated writing practice, you learned that integrated writing is a common task at the college level. Because incorporating ideas from outside sources through summary and synthesis is so important, it is a task included on the TOEFL. This section of the integrated writing practice focuses on the unique differences between a normal integrated writing task and the very controlled version you will encounter on the TOEFL.
It is important to first note that the TOEFL integrated writing task is not a true essay as you have likely learned to create. There is no introduction. There is no conclusion. There is no room for your own personal reactions and opinions on the topic. You do not write a thesis statement. You don't need 5 paragraphs with 5 sentences each.
The TOEFL integrated writing structure is very prescribed, and the content is provided directly. The integrated writing task requires you to summarize and compare academic information.
You will have three minutes to read a passage about an academic topic. You should take notes about the main points that the author makes, but you do not need to write a lot because you will be able to see the reading again when it is time to write.
Then you will listen to a piece of an academic lecture that addresses the same topic that you read about. The professor that is speaking may have the same opinion as the author of the article you read, but the professor often has an opposing point of view. You need to take good notes during the listening. You can only listen one time. Make sure you listen for the main points you found in the reading.
You will have 20 minutes to write your response to the question.
Read the question carefully and address all the parts of the question. For example, in this example question, the primary task is to summarize the points made in the lecture. Then you should explain how they relate to points in the reading. Always answer both parts of the question.
Example: TOEFL Integrated Writing Prompt
The TOEFL Integrated Writing will always ask you to summarize the lecture and compare it to the reading passage.
Prompt: Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they challenge specific arguments made in the reading passage.
Your answer will not look like a traditional essay because this task is not an essay. This task is a summary. In order to summarize the information they give you, you will typically need four paragraphs. The first paragraph will state the relationship between the reading and the listening (e.g., do they agree about the topic, or do they disagree?). The other three paragraphs will each focus on a specific point that was addressed in both the reading and the listening. You do not need a conclusion paragraph. An effective response will have approximately 200 words.
Be careful in your response to not summarize both the reading and the lecture. You should typically focus on summarizing the lecture. You should not copy from the reading passage word-for-word.
In order to receive a high score on this section, you need to answer the question by writing about the important points from the reading and listening in a clear and accurate way.
Exercise 1: TOEFL Rubric
Take some time to look over the TOEFL Integrated Writing Rubric.
- What will the test raters be focusing on as they assign a score to your essay?
- How is this rubric similar or different from the rubrics your UP Writing teacher has used this semester?
- Imagine a writing rubric for a class in your anticipated major. What similarities or differences would you expect there to be? Why would you see those differences?
Exercise 2: TOEFL Integrated Writing Practice
Prompt: Summarize the points from the discussion and explain how they cast doubt on the points made in the reading. Refer to specific details from each source in your response. Your answer should be between 250-300 words.
A science that has played an important role in law enforcement is the practice of detecting lies. This practice has assisted police officers and law officials in interrogations and courtroom proceedings throughout the years. Lie detecting relies on observing other people’s behaviors and bodily changes.
There are certain behaviors that people exhibit when they are lying. For example, liars frequently look away from the person that they’re speaking to. They look down, or to the side. Liars also lean forward as they lie. They play with objects, or fiddle with their hands. People usually smile ingenuously, or cleverly, if they are lying. They blink less and swallow more. They even sometimes stutter when they talk. And liars generally touch their faces more.
Liars do these things because of bodily changes that they cannot control. For instance, people touch their faces more when they lie because the tissue of the nose and ears can become filled with blood, causing the liar’s face to feel hot and uncomfortable. They fidget because their body releases adrenaline when they lie. Liars stutter because the adrenaline also speeds up their breathing, which gets in the way of normal speech.
Observations of behavioral and bodily changes have helped to catch many liars. This is due to the ease with which professionals and non-professionals alike can practice it. Although lie detecting is a science that is still being developed and studied, it is something that anyone can do with practice. If someone becomes familiar enough with the typical signs, a liar will stand out to them.
**Audio recording available to teachers**