Integrated Writing (Content)

Integrated Content

Because integrated writing depends on including support from an outside source, the strategies of quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing are essential for success. But before you can utilize this strategy, you must first identify the most relevant information from the sources.

Outlining your essay first will always set you up for success. The outline will establish if your writing is more foucsed on a summary comparison or synthesis. In other words, are the sources meant to work together to support the same ideas? Or are you meant to find and explore differences? That scope will be clear from the prompt, but the scale of the detail that you need for your writing is often open.

This means that it is up to you to recognize important information as you read or listen. In highly controlled integrated writing tasks like you see on the TOEFL, the sources and task are always structured the same and require minimal effort in choosing the content to include.

Typical TOEFL Writing Task 1 Content Structure

TOEFL Structure

As you can see, the structure in the two sources is exactly parallel. The same points are given in the same order, with the only variation being the point of view on the topic. The listening passage with usually disagree with the reading passage. This is not always the case, so they may agree sometimes. However, usually the listening will have an opposing or opposite opinion than the reading. The points being discussed will be in the same order for both. This allows you to focus on creating your contrasting organization without requiring multiple reviews of the original source.

However, most real-life integrated tasks will have greater expectations for sifting through the available resources and choosing what to include. At the most extreme end of this process of choosing content, consider the process you went through to find, read, and use sources to support the essays you worked on throughout the semester. Many of your college courses will expect this degree of research and critical thinking about source material.

The middle point of this spectrum is the most frequent. This integration is pulling from the readings assigned from the class (e.g. textbook or articles) and the lectures. The majority of your writing tasks will expect you to find connections between those sources.

Spectrum of Integrated Writing

Image: Barraza 2022

So how do you know what is important from the reading and lectures? This is where the skills and strategies you are learning and developing in your Listening & Speaking and Reading classes come in as essential to your improving as an academic writer. Look at the box below for some tips on how to recognize important information:

Tips for Receptive Skills

Receptive skills is the term used for language that you receive from either listening or reading. This often seems like a "passive" side of language learning and use where you are not actively doing an action, and therefore they are skills that get less attention from learners. The label "passive" for listening and reading could not be further from the truth of what is truly happening as you engage those skills. While you are reading and listening, you are very active in using English skills and strategies to understand what you are reading and listening to.  Here are some reminders of skills and strategies you discuss in these courses that are extremely valuable for integrated writing:


Understanding main ideas and major details

Noticing repetition of words



Making inferences

Recognize organizational structures and purpose

Using grammar and word part knowledge to understand unfamiliar words

Understanding main ideas and major details

Noticing repetition of words

Understanding the use and purpose of suprasegmentals like pausing, intonation and stress

Making inferences

Recognizing use and meaning of vocabulary (connotation)

Effective use of selective listening 

Choosing Content

Below you will find a step-by-step explanation of how to choose content. Because this process has been integrated into the practice you have done throughout the semester, none of this should feel like completely new information. Instead, this should function as a reminder of the writing skills you have worked to develop over the past few months. 

The prompt

It should come as no surprise that the first step to appropriately choosing content is understanding the prompt. You must first understand what you are meant to write about before you can move any further.

The thesis

Depending on the context and parameters of the assignment, there are two different approaches. The first approach would be to first read through the material you have been given or have gathered to decide on the position you wish to take in your thesis. The second option would be to create your thesis statement based off of your initial thoughts on the prompt and then to look at the sources. The latter is only advisable if you are familiar enough with the topic to have an informed opinion before evaluating the existing writing on the issue.

Supporting ideas

The advice here is the same as number two. You would do best to first see what strong supporting ideas already exist. Use the reading and the listening to inform your own supporting organization. It is possible to decide on your supporting ideas before carefully reading through the sources, but this may lead to a loss of time or a weak position if you find that little has been written or said that aligns with what you believed you wanted to say.


Once you have completed the first three steps, explore your sources as thoroughly as possible given the constraints of the assignment. Read with a highlighter in hand. Listen and read multiple times. Check transcripts or dictionaries if needed. If this is not possible because of testing center limitations, give all of your focus to the source when it is available to you. It should always be possible for you to take notes on a pad of paper or in an open document.


If you based your thesis and supporting ideas off of what you learned while exploring the sources, it will be much easier to make connections between the notes and highlights you created during the exploration stage.


Decide which sources to integrate by assessing the strength. Strength is decided by relevance and by how compelling that point is in supporting or developing your own ideas.


The next step is to decide if you will incorporate that supporting information from a source as a quote, summary, or paraphrase. You can revisit those sections of this textbook if you need a reminder of the conditions where these different uses are best implemented.

Be sure to introduce, credit, and respond to the source appropriately as explained in those three chapters. The source should feel like part of the paragraph, not like a copy and paste addition. 


Exercise 1: Integrated Writing (Choosing Focus)

You received an email at work asking for your opinion about a possible company change to a work-from-home model. Before responding to the email, you decide you should learn more about the pros and cons of this change. Read at least one of the two articles and watch one of the two videos. You may take notes and/or highlight. You are welcome to discuss the ideas with a partner as part of your brainstorm.

You must respond to the email by tomorrow. Include references to both the article and video you watched to support your position. Because you have many other tasks to complete, set a timer for 20 minutes to write your response using your notes. 

Don't Forget the Downsides of Remote Work - Forbes (Article)

5 Proven Benefits of Remote Work for Companies - Forbes (Article)

What are the pros and cons of working remotely? - CBS Mornings (Video)

Why remote work doesn't benefit everyone - CNN (Video) 

This content is provided to you freely by BYU-I Books.

Access it online or download it at