Integrated writing goes one step beyond explaining your thoughts and opinions clearly and in a logical order. Integrated writing assignments push you to take the words and ideas from another author or speaker and then bring the pieces from those original sources together to make a new, complete explanation.
It is like putting a puzzle together. The individual pieces have colors and shapes that are unique and interesting, but it is the skill of putting them together in the correct places that makes a puzzle function.
With this comparison in mind, you can see how an integrated writing will require you to look carefully at the individual pieces to understand them. This means listening and reading carefully to ensure your comprehension. Once you understand the parts, you can use them to respond to the prompt.
In your reading and listening classes, you will learn specific strategies and skills for comprehension. Since this textbook focuses on the writing part of the skills, this is only a brief review of how to check your understanding of the main ideas and major details of source materials.
The first step is to check that you understand the main idea of the source. A main idea is the topic + a controlling idea. A controlling idea is the part of the main idea that narrows the topic. The main idea often also includes a clue for the organizational pattern of the text/speech.
- Climate change (topic: general) is accelerated by (organizational pattern: cause/effect) human activities (controlling idea).
When you look for a main idea, you should always look for the topic, purpose, controlling idea, and point of view. The topic will be easiest to identify. The purpose will usually be found in the verbs used. The controlling idea will show you a more specific focus for the topic. The point of view will be seen through the word choice.
Once you have identified the main idea, you will look for the major details, or the major supporting points that the writer or speaker uses to explain the main idea. This will vary based on the organizational pattern.
Examples of Different Main Ideas
- Descriptive main ideas will have feature/characteristic supporting ideas.
- ex. BYU is a rigorous, private, religious university.
- Comparison main ideas will have comparative/constrastive supporting ideas.
- ex. New York and Los Angeles are both metropolitain centers for the arts, entertainment, and tourism.
- Cause main ideas will have effect supporting ideas.
- ex. Hurricanes have a significant impact on a city's infrastructure, economy, and the health of the citizens.
- Opinion main ideas will have reasons as supporting ideas. Although these reasons should be supported by facts, they will be debatable.
- ex. Learning in an online classroom is a better experience than a traditional classroom because it allows for more individual learning experiences.
While the main ideas and major details may sometimes be written or spoken together like the examples above, they will not always be so easy to identify. A thesis (main idea) does not always have to be explicitly stated.
The point of view of the speaker is often very important in an integrated task. You have to ask yourself why is the speaker saying this? How does the speaker's perspective compare to the writer's point of view? Do they see the world in the same way? Why or why not?
This perspective is sometimes clear in the major details and controlling ideas. However, you may need to pay closer attention to the word choice (and intonation and stress in listening passages) to really understand the differences in how the sources view a topic. This is a skill you will need to practice in your reading and listening classes.
When it comes to writing, your own word choice is very important for two main reasons:
- you use your words carefully to explain the relationship between the sources quickly and simply
- you have to explain the ideas from the sources in different words when the idea is long/complex or you cannot use an exact quote
Look at the two example sentences below. It should be easy to identify which one would be the most efficient way to explain a relationship between sources, especially in a timed integrated task like the TOEFL writing task 1.
- The lecture and textbook provide conflicting accounts of the invention.
- The lecture says that the first flight was by Brazilian aviator Alberto Santso-Dumont, but the textbook says that it was the American aviators known as the Wright brothers.
The second point has more details, which is helpful for understanding the important details from the sources. However, the relationship between the sources is only expressed with the word but. This is a simple connector word and does not have any real interest. The word conflicting on the other hand, expresses more than just a difference. The first sentence is able to say much more about the relationship in fewer words, and therefore, becomes the stronger sentence to use in your integrated writing.
Exercise 1: Word Choice
Read the example sentences for integrated writing below. Rewrite each sentence to be simpler and to explain the relationship between the sources in a more interesting way.
- In the video, the speaker explains that Americans are taught that there are seven continents. The geography textbook explains that not everyone divides the continents in the same way because they are not universally defined.
- The newspaper article describes the damage to many buildings in the city. The news clip tells the history of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
- One website discusses the impact of Steve Irwin on conservation efforts in Australia. The other website talks about his role at the Australia Zoo. The final website discusses the impact his children continue to have on wildlife conservation.
Exercise 2: Integrated Writing Practice
Watch the video and take notes on the main idea and any major details. Then click on the museum article and read that source. You have 20 minutes to answer the prompt. Your answer should be around 200 words long.
Prompt: How do the video and article describe dinosaurs? How are their descriptions similar or different?
Museum article: https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/dinosaurs-among-us/feathers